Nine men, who were convicted in January on charges of homosexuality, have had their jail sentences overturned by the court of appeals in Dakar, Senegal.
The men, sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of “indecent and unnatural acts” and “forming associations of criminals”, were involved in HIV-prevention work when they were arrested at a private residence in December.
At their trial, they were accused of using their AIDS organisation as a front for “recruiting” men into homosexuality.
During the appeal of the sentence, which is the harshest ever to be handed down in Senegal for a homosexuality conviction, the men’s attorney argued that the accusations were based on anonymous tip-offs and that there was no evidence presented.
They also said that the men were arrested without a warrant at a residence – therefore violating the victims’ privacy and that there were no witnesses. The prosecution did not contest the defence’s plea.
Homosexuality is illegal in Senegal, where 95 percent of the population is Muslim, and homosexual acts are punishable with up to five years in prison.