Tunisia: 6 youth jailed, LGBT group leader flees


gay_arrestA crackdown on the LGBT community appears to be under way in Tunisia as six young men are jailed for three years after being found “guilty” of homosexuality.

CNN Arabic reported that, according to local LGBT group Shams, the students were sentenced in the Tunisian city of Kairouan last week.

They were also banished from returning to the city for five years after they completed their prison term.

One of the young men, who was subjected to a forced anal examination, was jailed for an additional six months because police found “immoral” material on his computer.

LGBT activists say that the  men were arrested on 2 December after the police raided a house in which they were having a gathering.

Amnesty International called for the men’s release, describing anal examinations as “torture when carried out involuntarily.”

“The fact that, in 2015, a Tunisian court can still jail six young men for same-sex relations and punish them with banishment shows how taboo same-sex relationships still are in Tunisia,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Banning them from residing in the city sets a dangerous precedent and is likely to lead to further stigmatisation.”

Hedi Sahly, Vice-president of Shams, which has been publicly lobbying for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, called the jailing of the men “a major crackdown on freedom” in Tunisia.

“There is no democracy in a country where the rights of minorities are not respected,” he told CNN.

According to HuffPost Tunisia, Sahly was recently forced to leave Tunisia after he received death threats.

“This is not the first time I got death threats and I am not alone. But this time, the danger was such that I was told by my family to leave the country quickly,” he said.

Shams, which was only registered in May, is also under pressure from local politicians, who claim that the organisation is a threat to “social peace” and could lead to terrorism.

Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are illegal in the North African country, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

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