Nigerian police have been forced to use teargas and fire shots into the air to disperse a mob throwing stones at a group of men accused of homosexuality outside an Islamic court.
The men (reports say there are between seven and nine) have been charged under Sharia law, which could see them sentenced to death by stoning, in the Northern state of Bauchi.
According to Voice of America, the crowd shouted, “God will punish you!” as they threw stones at the accused men’s vehicle outside the courthouse.
AP said that the angry mob consisted of thousands of people. The violent incident led to the court being closed and the men being returned to prison.
Last week, the same court gave another man, Mubarak Ibrahim, 20 lashes after finding him guilty of homosexuality. He was given a more “lenient” sentence because the judge said that his crime had taken place seven years ago and that he had “stopped the practice”.
While none of these men have been charged under the country’s draconian new federal law, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the law’s enactment has led to a dramatic increase in anti-gay sentiment in the country.
There are now reports that as many as 68 people have been arrested on homosexuality charges in Nigeria.
The various reports, collated by 76Crimes.com, appear to mainly centre on the Northern states where victims have been arrested under Sharia law, but there are also claims that there have been 10 to 30 arrests in southern Christian states.
Nigerian police spokesman Frank Mba denied to CNN that the arrests are connected to the country’s newly enacted federal law, described as one of the world’s most severe anti-gay laws.
“I challenge Amnesty International to publish details of persons alleged to have been arrested in connection with the new anti-gay law, stating clearly when they were arrested, where they were arrested, the police station or department that carried out the arrest, etc.,” Mba said.
“The new anti-gay law is primarily designed to prevent same-sex marriages and unions in Nigeria. So far, (to the best of our knowledge) no Nigerian has come out to declare his intention of engaging in such an illicit union. Therefore, the question that naturally arises is: how can the police arrest ‘suspects or offenders’ not known to them or to the law?”
Mba’s comments are disingenuous as the law does much more than criminalise same-sex marriage, and could apply to any same-sex relationships. It also outlaws public same-sex affection and LGBT clubs or organisations; with prison sentences of up to 14 years. Anyone who does not report LGBT people to the authorities also faces a jail sentence. Gay sex is already illegal under federal law with a penalty of 14 years in prison.