TRIAL OF 20 PEOPLE ACCUSED OF BEING GAY IN GAMBIA CONTINUES
Thu, 19 July 2012The trial of 18 men and two women who were arrested in April in The Gambia under suspicion of being gay continues, although the circumstances remain confusing.
Initial reports indicated that around 15 men were arrested at a bar near Banjul on suspicion of them being gay.
More recent reports by local media now say that 20 people were arrested at the Elite Fitness Centre in Kololi while putting on a dance show for tourists.
Following a tip-off, officers from the Kotu Police Station went to the venue and apparently found that the performing men were dressed and dancing like women. It is unclear why the women were arrested.
The accused are now facing charges of committing "unnatural offences" and "conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to the Laws of The Gambia".
According to The Daily Observer, two police officers testified in the trial on Monday and confirmed that they were briefed before the raid that "there were people alleged to be homosexuals organising a programme..."
One officer said that when they arrived at the centre they "saw the accused wearing female clothes with hand bags on them, walking like ladies".
The officers started taking pictures and then began to arrest the suspects. Other police arrived and arrested people who attempted to flee from the venue.
The case has been adjourned to 1 August. The accused are apparently out on bail.
In 2008, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh - who has been president since 1996 - gave gays and lesbians 24 hours to leave the country or threatened to have their heads cut off.
In February, he said that he would never accept the "evil" of homosexuality in his country as long as he is in power.
Article 144 of The Gambia’s 1965 Criminal Code criminalises homosexual conduct as an “unnatural offence” and provides for a prison sentence of up to 14 years.