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Nigeria: 76 people arrested for organising a "gay wedding

Nigeria: 76 people arrested for organising a "gay wedding
Members of the LGBT community and their supporters display a rainbow flag to celebrate   -  
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Aijaz Rahi/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved.


More than 70 young people were arrested on Saturday by security forces on charges of organising a gay wedding in north-east Nigeria, where such unions are criminalised and violence against the LGBT+ community is widespread.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Nigeria under a 2014 law, and punishable by 14 years in prison.

"We apprehended 76 suspected homosexuals at a birthday party organised by one of them who was due to marry his fiancé at the event," said Buhari Saad, the spokesman for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Gombe State, a paramilitary organisation under the government.

The arrested youths include 59 men and 17 women.

Lawyers for those arrested could not immediately be contacted for comment or confirmation.

Intimidation of the LGBT+ community is rife in Nigeria, and in recent years the security forces have carried out numerous raids on parties where they believe weddings are taking place. However, none of those arrested have been convicted.

In August, police arrested more than a hundred men in similar circumstances in south-east Nigeria.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International has called for an end to this "witch-hunt".

"In a society where corruption is endemic, the law prohibiting same-sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail by law enforcement officials and other members of the public", it also condemned.

In December, 19 men and women in their twenties were arrested in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, by the Islamic police, known as Hisbah, on charges of organising a gay wedding.The suspects were reprimanded and released without being brought to justice.

Gombe State, where the arrests took place on Saturday, is also one of the northern states with a Muslim majority where Islamic Sharia law is applied alongside the federal and state judicial systems.

Under Sharia law, homosexual relations are punishable by death. However, this sentence has never been applied in northern Nigeria. The NSCDC spokesman refused to say whether the suspects arrested on Saturday would be charged under Sharia law or ordinary law.

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