Ten men arrested last weekend for ‘being gay’ in the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar have been released.
On 3 November, police raided a beach resort following a tip-off that a same-sex marriage was taking place on Pongwe Beach.
Police released the men on bail on Thursday 8 November. However, a lawyer representing the men confirmed the case is far from over.
Homosexual acts are still illegal in Tanzania and its Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar. According to the country’s colonial-era penal code, male offenders can face up to 25 years in jail.
The case isn’t over
‘I have dealt with many such cases and given the high level of homophobia in the country, I don’t think this will be the end for my clients,’ the men’s lawyer told www.news.trust.org.
The lawyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained that his clients might face harassment.
Police also confirmed the men can end up in jail again.
‘We have been investigating this case as it was reported to us, but we have so far found no evidence of unlawful acts so we are releasing all the men,’ said Suleiman Hassan. Hassan is Unguja South’s regional police commander.
‘We are however continuing our investigation and if we find evidence, they could be rearrested and charged,’ he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Unguja.
A witch hunt in Dar es Salaam
The arrest came a few days after Paul Makonda, governor of Tanzania’s commercial hub Dar es Salaam, announced that a task force of 17 men would arrest all homosexuals.
He encouraged citizens to report gay people to the police. He also said authorities will be trawling for possible LGBTI people on social media. However, there hasn’t been any arrest so far.
The central government has distanced itself from Makonda’s comments without openly condemning them.