February 4, 2020 / 4:47 PM / 5 months ago

Nigerian court adjourns case of 47 men charged under homosexuality law

Some of the 47 men charged with public displays of affection with members of the same sex sign an attendance list within the premises of the Federal High Court after the court-hearing of their case in Lagos, Nigeria February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

LAGOS (Reuters) - After months of delays, Nigerian prosecutors began presenting their evidence against 47 men charged with public displays of affection with members of the same sex, but asked for an adjournment after calling one witness.

Prosecution lawyer Ilyas Abdulrahman said their lead witness, the police inspector who led the raid in which the men were arrested, would appear on Wednesday.

The trial in Lagos is seen as a test case for a law that criminalizes homosexuality, which is outlawed in many socially conservative African societies where some religious groups brand it a corrupting Western import.

On Tuesday the prosecution called police Inspector Ade Adegboye, who said he knew three of the defendants from his “anti-cultism” work. He declined to answer questions from the defense and said nothing regarding the charges against the men, who face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

The men were arrested in a police raid on a hotel in the Egbeda district of Lagos in August 2018. Police said they were being “initiated” into a gay club, but the accused said they were attending a birthday party.

Their case is seen as a test for a Nigerian law that bans gay marriage, punishable by a 14-year jail term, and same-sex “amorous relationships”.

The law caused an international outcry when it came into force in 2014. Nobody has yet been convicted under the law, prosecution and defense lawyers in the case have previously told Reuters.

The trial was previously adjourned twice without opening remarks because the prosecution did not bring its witnesses to court.

Reporting by Libby George; Editing by Pravin Char

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