Nigerian judge throws out case against 47 men facing homosexuality charge


By Alexis Akwagyiram

LAGOS, Oct 27 (Reuters) - A judge in a Nigerian court on Tuesday threw out a case against 47 men charged with public displays of affection with members of same sex due to the failure of prosecutors to appear in court and call witnesses to complete their case.

The trial, heard in commercial capital Lagos, was widely seen as a test case for a law introduced in 2014 that bans same-sex "amorous relationships". The law carries a jail term of up to 10 years.

The men were arrested in a police raid on a Lagos hotel in the city's Egbeda district in 2018. Police said the men were being initiated into a gay club, but the defendants said they were attending a birthday party.

Prosecutors failed to attend a hearing at the federal high court in Lagos, having previously failed to present witnesses in a case that had been adjourned on several occasions.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa struck out the case and said he had done so due to the "lack of diligent prosecution".

The Nigerian law banning gay marriage, punishable by a 14-year prison term, and same-sex "amorous relationships", prompted an international outcry when it came into force under former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

Prior to the court's judgment, prosecution and defence lawyers in the case told Reuters nobody had yet been convicted under the law.

Some of the men previously told Reuters they had been stigmatized as a result of the raid and a televised news conference held by police in which they were identified the day after their arrest.

Homosexuality is outlawed in many socially conservative African societies where some religious groups brand it a corrupting Western import. Gay sex is a crime in countries across the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.

(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Jon Boyle and Alexandra Hudson)

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