Anti-gay beating sparks new row in Morocco

Rabat - Videos showing a crowd attacking a presumed homosexual in public in Morocco because of his appearance triggered fresh controversy on Tuesday over social intolerance in the conservative Muslim country.

The website Goud posted a three-minute video of the man trying in vain to take shelter in a taxi to escape angry youths in the central city of Fez.

His appearance in what looked like a white dress and his gait had upset the youths, it said.

The man is seen in the video collapsing to the ground under an avalanche of blows from an expanding circle of youths.

He finally gets to his feet, clothes torn, and tries to take cover in a shop before a policeman appears and holds up his gun to disperse the crowd.

In a widening debate on social media, Le360 website compared the scene to the "barbarity" of the Islamic State jihadist group which carries out public executions in Syria.

Goud, for its part, said the man could face legal action over homosexuality, which is illegal in the conservative North African state.

Morocco's human rights association, contacted by AFP, said the victim of the assault was to appear in court later on Tuesday, although there was no immediate confirmation from the interior ministry.

After a string of controversies over homosexuality, two men were jailed for four months on June 19 for kissing in public in Rabat.

They were convicted of an "affront to public decency" and an "unnatural act with a person of the same sex".

Homosexual activity is punishable in Morocco by up to three years in jail and a divisive law - known as Article 489 - has been the subject of several protests, including a recent topless demonstration by feminist group Femen in the Moroccan capital.

Earlier in June, weekly magazine Maroc Hebdo was forced to withdraw its latest edition featuring a front cover headline asking: "Should we burn gays?"

Another French-language weekly, Tel Quel, has published an editorial appearing to support the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

"Homosexuals are not deviant nor sick," it wrote. "Consensual love between two adults is not a crime."

Human Rights Watch has called on the kingdom to drop its controversial anti-homosexuality law.

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