A court in Algeria has sentenced two men to prison terms and 42 others to suspended terms after mass arrests at what the police alleged was a “gay wedding.”
Human Rights Watch reports that on 24 July, police raided a private residence and arrested the 44 individuals (9 women and 35 men) – most of them university students – in el-Kharoub, in northeastern Algeria, after neighbours complained.
An Algerian lawyer involved in the case told Human Rights Watch that the court used police reports describing the decorations, flowers, and sweets indicative of a wedding celebration, and the men’s supposedly gay appearance, as evidence of guilt.
On 3 September, the court convicted the 44 of “same-sex relations,” “public indecency,” and “subjecting others to harm by breaking Covid-19-related quarantine measures.”
Two of the men were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine, and the others to a one-year suspended sentence. The appeal of their convictions has not yet been scheduled.
“Algerian authorities’ attack on personal freedoms is nothing new, but arresting dozens of students based on their perceived sexual orientation is a flagrant infringement on their basic rights,” said Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“They should immediately release from prison the two men who would be free today were it not for Algeria’s regressive anti-homosexuality laws.”
In Algeria, same-sex relations are punishable under article 338 of the penal code by up to two years in prison. Additionally, article 333 increases the penalty for public indecency to six months to three years in prison and a fine if it involves “acts against nature with a member of the same sex,” whether between men or women.
“While people in Algeria continue to demand their basic rights to protest, the authorities are dedicating their time and resources to crack down on students and stockpile discriminatory charges against them,” Younes said. “Instead of policing its citizens’ private lives, the Algerian government should carry out reforms, including decriminalising same-sex conduct.”