Three Gambian men arrested on charges of homosexuality have reportedly been acquitted after an ordeal that lasted almost eight months.
The men are believed to be the last three people who were still facing charges following a state crackdown on the LGBT community by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) at the end of 2014.
In February, it was reported that they had been granted bail but, according to journalist Fatu Camara, they had been detained until now. It is unclear if they were unable to meet the strict conditions and expenses of their bail, said at the time to be one million Delasi (R271,464) each.
Camara wrote on Facebook that the men “were all released from custody yesterday after the court acquitted and discharged them.”
She warned: “All three are currently home at least for now, but we should not stop fighting knowing who we dealing with here. Many #Gambians were acquitted and discharged by the courts only to be picked up again.”
In October 2014, The Gambia’s President Jammeh signed an anti-gay law that created the crime of “aggravated homosexuality”, which carries punishment of up to life in prison.
Homosexuality was already illegal in The Gambia under British colonial era laws and those found guilty of “unnatural offences” face up to 14 years in prison.
The enactment of the new law was followed by the reported arrest of a number of people on suspicion of homosexuality by the NIA.
According to Amnesty International, these individuals were subjected to torture and ill-treatment to force them to confess their so called “crimes” and to reveal information about other individuals perceived to be gay or lesbian.
President Jammeh has repeatedly attacked LGBT people as “vermin”, asserting that the “evil empire of homosexuals will also go down the dirty drain and garbage of hell…” He has even threatened to decapitate gays and lesbians.