Human Rights Watch reports that two men have been imprisoned on charges of homosexuality in Morocco.
The Agadir Court of Appeals on June 30 upheld the conviction of the two men, known only as J and A, from the southern city of Guelmine. According to police. they were caught having sex in a car parked in a remote location on May 20.
Morocco has repeatedly imprisoned men under penal code article 489, which criminalises homosexuality, with prison terms of up to three years. In this case, the two men were said to have “confessed” to having sex to the police after being caught.
During their brief trial on May 26, J, 23, affirmed his confession while A, 46, repudiated his statement and said he was innocent. For reasons that are unclear, neither had a lawyer during the trial.
The court convicted the two, saying that A’s repudiation of his confession was “nothing but a means of evading criminal responsibility and escaping punishment, belied by the fact that his confession [to the police] was detailed and not proven to be false.”
The court sentenced each of the men to six months in prison and a fine of 500 dirhams (US$50) on a single charge of homosexual acts.
The Agadir Appeals Court affirmed the verdict but reduced the sentence to a month and a half for J and three months for A. The court did not explain the disparate sentences.
J has since been released from prison after completing his sentence while A is due to be released on August 20.
Human Rights Watch noted that the Moroccan Parliament is preparing to examine revisions to the penal code and urged lawmakers to use the opportunity to remove the provisions that criminalise same-sex “deviant acts”.
“If legislators want to harmonize Morocco’s laws with its 2011 Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy, they should decriminalise the intimate lives of consenting adults,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
At least 20 nongovernmental organisations in Morocco have also called for the repeal of penal code article 489.