Five men have appeared in an Islamic Sharia court in the Nigerian state of Bauchi on charges of forming a gay club.
AFP reported that four of the men (all in their 20s) had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing while the fifth (a 47-year-old school principal) has denied the charge.
They have been accused of contravening Section 133 of the Bauchi state Sharia penal code by forming the club, allegedly after receiving $150,000 from the US to do so.
Section 133, however, deals with gay sex which means that if found guilty the men could face the death penalty by stoning.
The men have been charged under the state’s Sharia laws, which run parallel to the other state and federal legal systems and are applicable to all Muslims.
Bauchi is one of twelve northern states in Nigeria to have adopted Sharia law in its criminal justice system.
Bauchi Sharia Commission chief Mustapha Baba Ilela stated that around 12 people have so far been arrested on homosexuality charges under the religious code this year alone. He said that they had all confessed.
Earlier reports claimed that 38 suspects had been arrested; among a list of 168 names of allegedly gay people in the state that was extracted by torturing four men.
It appears at this point that none of those arrested has been charged under Nigeria’s new federal anti-gay law which came into force this month.
The new law jails anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or is in same-sex relationship and anyone who supports or does not report a gay person to the state; with penalties of up to 14 years in prison. Gay sex was already illegal under federal law; with a 14 year prison sentence.