Nigeria court puts 47 men on trial for homosexuality - lawyer

Kenyan gay and lesbian organisations demonstrate outside the Nigerian High Commission in Nairobi on February 7, 2014. (Simon Maina/AFP)
Kenyan gay and lesbian organisations demonstrate outside the Nigerian High Commission in Nairobi on February 7, 2014. (Simon Maina/AFP)

A group of 47 men has appeared in a Nigerian court charged with homosexuality, a crime punishable by 14 years in prison in the country, their attorney said on Thursday.

The men, who were arrested in a Lagos hotel during a police raid in 2017, have been accused of "committing homosexual acts" in a "gay initiation party".

Police said they were accused of "permitting male persons to have carnal knowledge of themselves against the order of nature".

The men have all pleaded not guilty.

"They were attending a birthday party. Some of them were at the club of the hotel, some others were relaxing in their rooms when the police came in and arrested them," defence lawyer Chizelu Emejulu said.

'Nothing illegal'

Emejulu said there were men and women at the party, but the police let the women go and kept the men in custody.

"Our defence line is very simple, they were doing nothing illegal," he said.

The trial was adjourned until February 4.

As in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, homosexuality is illegal in religiously conservative Nigeria, which is almost evenly split between a Muslim-majority north and a largely Christian south.

Lengthy jail terms exist under federal law and homosexuality carries the death sentence in the parallel Islamic system in northern states, although it has not been carried out.

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