Nine men, who were sentenced to eight years in jail last January for being gay, appeared at the Dakar Court of Appeal on Monday to contest their judgment, reports the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

In their plea to overturn the ruling, the men’s attorneys argued that, according to the law, in a case like this one, there should be material proof of the accusations.

They said that the prosecution lacked such evidence in the trial and that the men were in fact not caught red handed as the prosecution claimed.

On December 19, 2008, police officers raided the apartment of Diadji Diouf, a leader in the Senegalese lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and arrested him and eight other men in his apartment.

On January 8, 2009, the nine men appeared in court to respond to charges of criminal conspiracy and engaging in ‘acts against the order of nature’.

The men were sentenced to eight years in jail. This despite the prosecutor having asked for a sentence of five years, which is the maximum penalty provided by Senegalese law in sodomy cases.

The judge reportedly added the three extra years because he believed that the accused were “recruiting” gay men as part of a “criminal organisation”.

Lawyers for the men also noted that no specific complainant had filed criminal charges against the men, which contravened the Senegalese Code of Criminal Procedure.

Finally, they argued that the men were arrested without a warrant at a residence – therefore violating the victims’ privacy and that there were no witnesses or informants.

The prosecution did not contest the defence’s plea. The appeal took place after the court rejected the men’s application for bail on March 30.

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