UK family urges Morocco to free gay pensioner

2014-10-06 21:09
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London - A British man on Monday urged Morocco to release his 70-year-old father, claiming he is being held in "appalling" conditions in a Marrakesh prison after being convicted of homosexuality.

Britain's foreign ministry confirmed one of its citizens had been detained in Morocco, and that it was providing consular assistance.

There was no immediate reaction from the Moroccan authorities, but a local rights group said the Briton was arrested in September along with a Moroccan man, and that they were each sentenced last week to four months in jail.

Adrian Cole said his father, Ray, had been on holiday when he was approached by police while standing at a bus stop last month.

"They've gone through his phone and found photographs that they're using as evidence for a homosexual act," he said "The trial was a complete farce."

Omar Arbib of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights said the watchdog was trying to ascertain if Cole had been given "a fair trial".

Cole and the Moroccan man, who is in his 20s, were arrested on 18 September in a mall after they were seen behaving in a "sexually-perceived manner", said Arbib.

"The Moroccan has denied having any sexual relation with the Briton... but pictures were found on their mobile phones."

Under Moroccan law, people convicted of engaging in homosexual acts in the country can be jailed for between six months to three years.

In July a Moroccan appeals court upheld the convictions of six men accused of homosexual acts, prompting condemnation from Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based watchdog urged the Moroccan authorities to stop prosecuting and jailing people for their sexual orientation.

Just deport him

Cole said his father, a pensioner from Deal on the southeast coast of England, is being made to sleep on a concrete floor in an overcrowded cell with alleged paedophiles and murderers.

"He's had a couple of minor strokes before and has a minor heart condition. He has also been suffering with depression, which the court didn't take into account," he said.

"Why they haven't just deported him? No-one seems to be able to be able to explain."

Cole's family plans to appeal against last Thursday's conviction and are leading an online campaign that is seeking the support of actors Stephen Fry and Simon Pegg and entrepreneur Alan Sugar.

Cole was detained visiting Moroccan companion Jam Wald Nass.

Charlie Elphicke, the lawmaker for Cole's area, called on Britons to boycott Morocco as a holiday destination.

"Deeply concerned for my constituent Ray Cole who has been jailed in Morocco and doing all I can to get him back to UK," he tweeted.

The website of Britain's Foreign Office warns homosexual travellers about the risks visiting the North African country, where it notes sexual relations outside marriage are illegal.

Gillian Edwards from Abta, Britain's travel trade association for tour operators and travel agents, said it was "very unusual" for visitors to Morocco to be convicted of homosexuality.

"It is very important for gay travellers to research their destination before they go," she said.

Read more on:    human rights watch  |  morocco  |  gay rights  |  north africa

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