Nine Senegalese men have received heavy prison sentences for engaging “in acts against the order of nature”.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has reported that the men were arrested in a December 19, 2008, police raid on the apartment of Mr. Diadji Diouf, a leader in the Senegalese lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Diouf, who heads AIDES Senegal, an organisation providing HIV prevention services to men who have sex with men, and his guests were taken to the SICAP Mbao police station where they were detained until December 24 before being transferred to the prison in Rebeuss.

The nine men appeared in court today to respond to charges of criminal conspiracy and engaging in acts against the order of nature. They were sentenced to eight years in jail even though the prosecutor had only asked for a sentence of five years; which is the maximum penalty provided by Senegalese law in sodomy cases.

IGLHRC was informed that lawyers for the defence had limited access to case files and little time to prepare for the court hearing.

Under Article 3.913 of the Senegalese penal code, homosexual acts are punishable by imprisonment of between one and five years and a fine of 100,000 ($200) to 1,500,000 ($3,000) CFA francs.

In February 2008, ten men and one woman were arrested in Dakar after a popular local magazine published photographs of a marriage ceremony between two Senegalese men. The publicity and arrests created tremendous public animosity toward LGBT people in Senegal.

Statements such as “killing a homosexual is not a sin” and “they should all be well and truly eliminated from the face of the Earth” appeared on websites.

Many gay men and lesbians were reportedly attacked by mobs or driven from their homes. IGLHRC coordinated financial assistance for LGBT defenders and others at risk, and led an advocacy campaign demanding the detainees’ release.

In the current case, IGLHRC says that it is deeply concerned by what appears to be a violation of the men’s right to a free and fair trial, their right to privacy, and their right to freedom from discrimination.

The organisation says that it is working with local and international partners to find more information about the case and explore options for action.

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