Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr

During a seminar attended by Iraqi clerics, police and tribal leaders, radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr called for the “depravity” of homosexuality to be eradicated.

“The purpose of the meetings is to fight the depravity and to urge the community to reject this phenomenon,” said Sadr’s spokesperson Sheikh Wadea al-Atabi.

However, according to al-Atabi, Sadr does not condone violence against homosexuals. “The only remedy to stop it is through preaching and guidance. There is no other way to put an end to it,” he said, stressing that the movement could not resort to violence.

“Al-Sadr rejects this type of violence … and anyone who commits violence (against gays) will not be considered as being one of us,” Atabi said.

Anti-gay violence has been escalating in Iraq since last month’s condemnation of homosexuality by another Shiite cleric, Sattar al-Battat. The bodies of six gay men have been found in and around Baghdad since then, while police said four other gay men were also tortured.

In a letter to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Amnesty International claimed that as many as 25 boys and men had been killed in Baghdad alone because they were either gay or believed to be. Homosexual acts are punishable by up to seven years in prison in Iraq.

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