Two Islamic courts in Nigeria may hold their trials of 10 men charged with homosexuality in secret to avoid more mob violence.
Last week, police were forced to use tear gas and fire shots into the air to disperse a mob throwing stones at seven men accused of homosexuality outside a Sharia court in the northern state of Bauchi.
The violent incident led to the court being closed and the men being returned to prison. The trial, and that of another three men in a separate court in Bauchi, has now been put on hold.
“We can’t continue with the trial in view of the security breach we had during the last court session,” registrar Unguwar Jaki told AFP.
“The court will have to suspend the trial pending the review of the security situation with relevant authorities to avoid a repeat of the mob action we saw last week,” he said.
The judge in the second trial, Judge Nuhu Mohammed Dumi, confirmed that he had also suspended the case against the three men because of the violence.
He suggested that a new trial date may not be announced so that the men can be brought to court in secret.
The lawyer defending the three men told the news agency that his clients had agreed to not apply for bail because their lives would be in danger if they were to be released.
The trials are part of a recent crackdown against gays and lesbians in Bauchi. It is one of twelve Northern states to have adopted Sharia law, which allows for the death penalty by stoning for homosexuality. Sharia law runs parallel to the other state and federal legal systems and is applicable to all Muslims in these states.
Earlier this month a man was found guilty of homosexuality in a Bauchi court but was spared the death sentence and given 20 lashes instead. The judge said he ordered a more “lenient” sentence because the crime had taken place seven years ago and the accused had since “stopped the practice.”
LGBT Nigerians face additional persecution thanks to a new extreme federal anti-gay law which came into force this month. It punishes any form of same-sex relationships and gay organisations with prison sentences of up to 14 years.