Homosexuality trial sparks debate in Morocco

Moroccan protesters living in the neighborhood where two men presumed to be homosexual have been assaulted last month, demonstrate against homosexuality and in support of family members who are on trial in connection with the assault, on April 4, 201
Moroccan protesters living in the neighborhood where two men presumed to be homosexual have been assaulted last month, demonstrate against homosexuality and in support of family members who are on trial in connection with the assault, on April 4, 2016, outside the court in the central city of Beni Mellal. PHOTO: AFP

MOROCCO (AFP) - A man on trial for homosexuality and three others who allegedly attacked him appeared in court in central Morocco on Monday amid an outcry by human rights groups.

Rights organisations are demanding that Morocco decriminalise homosexuality, which is punishable by up to three years in jail.

The hearing in the central town of Beni Mellal lasted just a few minutes, said Hussein Harchi of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights.

The judge adjourned the trial against the four defendants until April 11, after the lawyer of one of the alleged assailants requested more time to study the case, said Harchi.

The investigation centres on an alleged assault of two reportedly homosexual men by a group of individuals in an apartment in Beni Mellal last month.

A video of the alleged attack appeared on YouTube on March 25, showing two half naked men with bloodied faces being attacked and dragged into the street.

Harchi said one 30-year-old man was accused of "sexual deviancy" and three were accused of "forced entry, resorting to violence and carrying weapons.

He added that another man accused of homosexuality had already been sentenced to four months in prison for "unnatural sexual acts" and that he had launched an appeal.

The trials have sparked outrage in Morocco, a conservative Muslim kingdom where rights groups have long called for the dropping of a law criminalising homosexual acts.

A group of more than a dozen activist organisations released a statement last month alleging that the case breached Morocco's human rights obligations.

A court in Rabat jailed two men to four months in prison in August for beating up a presumed homosexual because of his appearance.

The men were arrested after websites posted a video of the victim trying in vain to take shelter in a taxi to escape a crowd.

And in another incident in a string of controversies over homosexuality, two men were jailed for four months in June for kissing in public in the capital.