Nigerian court adjourns case of 47 men charged under homosexuality law

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Lawyers are seen walking within the Federal High Court premises prior to the court hearing of the case involving 57 Nigerian gay crime suspects in Lagos, Nigeria February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
Lawyers are seen walking within the Federal High Court premises prior to the court hearing of the case involving 57 Nigerian gay crime suspects in Lagos, Nigeria February 4, 2020. /REUTERS

A Nigerian court on Tuesday adjourned the trial of 47 men charged with public displays of affection with members of the same sex, a high-profile case seen as a test for a contentious law that criminalizes homosexuality.

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

The defendants, who face up to 10 years in jail if convicted, had waited for over three hours for the trial to begin at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Homosexuality is outlawed in many socially conservative African societies where some religious groups brand it a corrupting Western import.

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

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

It 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.

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