The 70-year-old British tourist jailed on homosexuality charges in Morocco has been released pending the outcome of his appeal.
Pink News reports that the Moroccan Embassy in London confirmed that retired publisher Ray Cole has been given conditional freedom. His appeal is expected to be heard today.
Cole was arrested after he went to Marrakesh last month to visit a Moroccan man, Jamal Jam Wald Nass. They were approached at a bus stop by police officers and were detained on suspicion of being gay.
Police found photos of the two men, which were used in court to prosecute them. They were both sentenced to four months in prison last Thursday.
The embassy said in a statement that Cole “was apprehended on 18 September 2014 by police officers in Marrakesh following complaints made by citizens who had contacted the police authorities to protest against indecent public behaviour they had witnessed from Mr Cole and a Moroccan national in his company.”
It warned that “’lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex’ are punishable from 6 months to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of 120 to 1200 dirhams.”
The embassy further noted that the offence is “clearly highlighted in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advice section on Morocco,” which underlines the importance of “respecting local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times.”
It added that “Moroccan and British authorities are working closely together to resolve this case as rapidly as possible, in a manner that is respectful of the norms and customs of both our countries.”
A fund has been set up to raise money for Cole’s court case and British and European MPs have expressed their outrage at his arrest.
While Cole’s prosecution has made international headlines thanks to him being a British citizen, little is known about his fellow convict, Jamal Jam Wald Nass. The embassy has not mentioned him and it is unclear if he too has been conditionally released or is also appealing his jailing.