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Human Rights Watch urges Algeria to free men jailed for homosexuality

Homosexuality is illegal in Algeria [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 October, 2020

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Human Rights Watch has called on Algeria to release two men sentenced to three years jail for homosexual relations and 44 other people prosecuted in the same case.

Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged Algeria to immediately release two men imprisoned for homosexuality and to void the convictions of all 44 people prosecuted in the same case.

On September 3, an Algerian court sentenced two men to three years' jail and 42 people to one-year suspended prison sentences, including for homosexual relations, after arrests at a private gathering that police alleged was a "gay wedding", the rights group said.

They were all convicted of having "same-sex relations," "public indecency" and "subjecting others to harm" by violating measures aimed at curbing the Covid-19 pandemic, HRW said in a statement.

Read also: Algerians troll interior minister with 'gay' hashtag after he calls protesters 'traitors and homosexuals'

The group of 35 men and nine women, mostly university students, had been arrested in El Khroub, in the northeastern province of Constantine, during July when quarantine measures were in place, the rights group said.

"The authorities should void the charges and release them immediately," the New York-based organisation said.

The "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 HRW's Rasha Younes.

Younes called on the authorities to "immediately release from prison the two men who would be free today were it not for Algeria's regressive anti-homosexuality laws."

"Breaking quarantine and social distancing measures to attend a social gathering does not justify arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention," said HRW.

The rights watchdog said the appeal of the convictions has yet to be scheduled.

In Algeria, same-sex relations are punishable by up to two years in prison.

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