Activists are outraged that two men have been arrested for kissing in front of the Colosseum in Rome.

The men, known only as Roberto and Michele, both in their late twenties, were detained by police for “lewd conduct” and held at a police station for almost an hour on Thursday before being released.

The charge could result in a two year jail sentence for the amorous couple.

The action led to a few dozen gay activists staging a protest “kiss-in” on Sunday outside the world famous landmark. They have called for a larger similar demonstration on 2 August.

The government’s health minister had called the arrests “excessive” and said that an apology was in order. Police have denied that their action was discriminatory and claim that the men “had their trousers and underpants down.”

The couple have denied this, insisting that they were only kissing.

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