DOUALA (Reuters) - Two transgender women facing charges of “attempted homosexuality” in Cameroon were denied bail on Wednesday after a judge adjourned their case and sent them back to jail, their lawyer said.
Mildred Loic, a local social media celebrity, and Moute Rolland were arrested while eating in a restaurant in the country’s largest city, Douala, on Feb. 8.
They were arrested for wearing women’s clothes and taken to prison two days later, said their lawyer, Richard Tamfu.
Loic, who has built an online reputation as a cosmetician and has more than 100,000 followers on Facebook, and Rolland also face charges of public indecency and not carrying identification. They have pled not guilty.
Rights groups have documented a series of actions against the LGBT community by Cameroonian authorities this year and last, leading to the arrest of dozens of people.
“We have observed a resurgence in homophobic attacks this year,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is common for people to be abused in detention.”
Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries and punishable by prison time in about half of them. In Cameroon, a guilty verdict can carry a sentence of up to five years.
Loic and Rolland’s case was expected to be heard on Wednesday but was pushed back to April 5 while the prosecution builds its case, Tamfu said.
State prosecutors could not be immediately reached for comment.
“They were hoping that today everything would come to an end,” Tamfu said. “The prosecution has not established concrete evidence... We think they should be released.”
He said the defendants were “very depressed” and staying in overcrowded prison cells where also they risked contracting COVID-19.
Reporting By Edward McAllister; editing by John Stonestreet
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