The trial of 47 men charged with homosexuality, a crime punishable by 14 years in prison in Nigeria, began in the Federal High Court in Lagos, their lawyer told AFP on Thursday.
The accused, who pleaded not guilty, were arrested at a hotel in Lagos during a police raid in 2017.
They are accused, according to the Nigerian police, of having participated in a « gay initiation party, » including « homosexual acts and encouraging men to meet to commit unnatural acts. » « .
According to their defense, Me Chizelu Emejulu, “they were attending a birthday party. Some were in the hotel’s nightclub while others were relaxing in rooms when they were arrested. «
« There were men and women (at the party, note), but the police let the women go and kept the men in detention, » added the lawyer.
« Our line of defense is very simple, they weren’t doing anything illegal. »
According to Emejulu, the prosecution – the national police – failed two days in a row, Wednesday and Thursday, to produce the witness who was to support his requisition at the start of the trial.
The hearing had to be adjourned until February 4.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan voted in 2014 for a law prohibiting same-sex marriage, but also “same-sex cohabitation”, and condemning from 10 to 14 years in prison any public demonstration of “romantic relationships between similar people. sex ».
In some predominantly Muslim states in the north of the country where sharia law is practiced alongside the federal and local justice system, homosexuality is even punishable by death.