Police testify against gay men arrested in Gambia

Trial of 18 men arrested for being gay in Gambia hears how police officers raided a bar in the capital Banjul

Police testify against gay men arrested in Gambia
19 July 2012

Police have described how they raided a gay bar in Gambia during a trial of 18 people arrested for being homosexual.

Two officers were called by the prosecution to testify against the men who were arrested at a bar in the suburbs of the capital Banjul on 6 April, reported allAfrica.com

The men were charged with ‘indecent practice between a male’ and they all pleaded not guilty.

The court heard on Monday (16 July) how one policeman, named as Cpl 3247 Ebrima Dampha PW5, was briefed by Police Commissioner Landing Bojang and other officers that homosexuals were gathering behind Duplex Night Club.

After being given orders to enter the bar, he reported how he saw people running in all directions and described how he arrested some of them, one of which was wearing a dress.

Another police officer named as Cpl 2552 Abdoulie Dibba (PW6) told the court how he was informed that a group of homosexuals were having a party at the Elite Fitness Bar.

He claimed that after entering through the back door of the venue he heard drums and saw men wearing women’s clothing, carrying handbags and ‘walking like ladies’.

After arresting one suspect, the rest of the punters began to run.

Police apprehended three digital cameras from the scene and submitted 43 photos as evidence.

However, the defense objected to the pictures being used as evidence claiming they do not reflect what happened and one of the cameras is a private camera.

But the prosecution responded by saying that the camera, owned by a woman, cannot be private because it was used in a public place.

Like many in Islamic African countries, Gambian authorities have a brutal attitude towards homosexuality.

In 2008 President Jammeh gave an ultimatum for gay people to leave the country and threatened to ‘cut off the head’ of any homosexual caught in his country. He later retracted his threats to kill gay people, after pressure from Human Rights Watch, but not to expel them from the Gambia.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice on travel to the Gambia states that: ‘Although there are no laws specifically covering homosexuality in the Gambia, the Gambian Criminal Code states that any person who has or attempts to have, "carnal knowledge" of any person "against the order of nature" is guilty of a felony and could face imprisonment.

‘The Gambian courts may interpret homosexual acts as falling under this part of the Code…We have received reports that the police are actively enforcing this Code.’

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell slammed the trial.

He said: ‘This trial is a continuation of the long-standing persecution and witch-hunting of LGBT people in the Gambia.

‘The president has threatened to deport and even kill homosexuals. Given the homophobic social climate in the country, the people in court stand very little chance of a fair trial.’

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