A Moroccan appeals court has, despite international outrage, upheld the sentence against six men convicted for gay acts last year.
The men were arrested in November at a party in the town of Ksar el Kebir after police claimed that they were holding a gay wedding. Prosecutors presented video footage of one of the men dressed as a woman taken at the party.
The men’s lawyers argued that the video showed no evidence of any homosexual activity, but the judge nevertheless upheld the earlier guilty ruling by a lower court.
The men, who pleaded not guilty, received sentences ranging from 10 months – for the party’s apparent organiser – to two months for others. Some of the men’s sentences included charges of illegally selling alcohol.
During the trial, protestors in Ksar el Kebir marched in the streets demanding the group receive harsh sentences. The men’s lawyers have expressed concern for their safety once they are released.
Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Watch, have made numerous appeals to the Moroccan government to release the men.
“These men are behind bars for private acts between consenting adults that no government has any business criminalising in the first place,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at the New York based Human Rights Watch in December.