Amnesty International has called on the Senegalse authorities to protect the nine men convicted of being gay, who were recently released from jail. They are at risk of homophobic attack, says the organisation.

It’s been reported that since the men were released on 20 April, the media and an Islamic organisation have disseminated homophobic statements describing them as “vicious” or “perverts” spreading AIDS. Radio programs have broadcast messages calling on the population to attack and throw stones at anyone suspected of “being a homosexual”.

“These statements amount to advocacy of hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence,” said Veronique Aubert, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.

Amnesty International called on the government to ensure the safety of the nine men. It has also called for an investigation into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment against the men while they were in custody at the Mbao Sicap police station in Dakar, and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

The men were arrested in Dakar on 19 December 2008 following anonymous accusations with regards to their sexual behaviour. Police officers also raided the house of the Secretary General of AIDES Senegal, an organisation providing HIV prevention services to men who have sex with men.

The nine men were sentenced to eight years in prison after having been found guilty of “indecent conduct and unnatural acts and conspiracy”. They were released after the Dakar Appeal Court overturned the convictions.

“The decision by Court of Appeal in Dakar to release them after they initially received an eight-year sentence is welcome. But it needs to be followed by concrete action from the authorities to ensure the men are safe from possible homophobic attacks,” said Aubert.

Homosexuality is illegal in Senegal, where 95 percent of the population is Muslim, and homosexual acts are punishable with up to five years in prison.

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