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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 31 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 05
Nigerian courts suspend Gay trials over fears of violence
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Nigerian courts suspend Gay trials over fears of violence

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two sharia courts in northern Nigeria have suspended the trials of 10 Gay men because they fear lynch mobs will attack the defendants, Agence France Press news agency reports.

A previous session of the sharia court in Bauchi City was disrupted by just such a mob, who pelted the court building with stones when the presiding judge refused to turn over the defendants for immediate stoning. Police had to fire their weapons into the air to disperse the mob.

"We can't continue with the trial in view of the security breach we had during the last court session," court registrar Isa Bununu told AFP:

"The court will have to suspend the trial pending the review of the security situation with relevant authorities to avoid a repeat of the mob action we saw last week."

Seven men were on trial in one Bauchi court, and three in another. All 10 are charged with being members of a "Gay club," AFP said.

One defendant was already convicted and publicly whipped. The court said it was being lenient and sparing him the death penalty because he admitted to one episode of Gay sex as a boy, and had not repeated the act since.

"The trial has been suspended because of the stoning incident in the other court, which we are trying to avoid here," Judge Nuhu Mohammed Dumi told reporters.

"The remand notice for the suspects expired today (January 29) but we will have to extend it."

Dumi said that the new trial date would not be publicized and the suspects would be brought to court in secret to avoid more rioting.

Attorney Suleiman Musa, representing three of the accused, objected to his clients' continued detention but Dumi said the decision was for their own safety.

"The families of the three suspects . . . came to me requesting bail and I told them that it was in their interests to stay in prison because they risk losing their lives at the hands of an angry mob if they are released on bail," he said. "They realized the danger."

Nigeria has a secular civil law code - under which Gay Nigerians may now be sentenced to 14 years in prison - but sharia law is usually used in the northern states, which are predominately Muslim.

To be proven, the charge of sodomy, like adultery, requires the testimony of three reliable witnesses or a voluntary confession. If convicted, Gay men may be stoned to death, but observers familiar with Nigeria say that the death penalty is rarely carried out.

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