Topless Femen activists held at Morocco homosexuality trial

Undercover Moroccan police arrest a FEMEN activist as they demonstrated outside the court in Beni Mellal on Monday (April 11).
Undercover Moroccan police arrest a FEMEN activist as they demonstrated outside the court in Beni Mellal on Monday (April 11).PHOTO: AFP

BENI MELLAL, Morocco (AFP) - The trial reopened Monday in central Morocco of a homosexual and three men who allegedly attacked him, as two topless Femen activists were detained while demanding that Rabat decriminalise homosexuality.

Residents of the town of Beni Mellal, meanwhile, gathered outside the court to demand the release of the assailants.

Two activists of the Femen movement tried to pose topless at the scene before being dragged off by police, said Hussein Harchi of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights.

"While around 100 people were demonstrating in support of the homophobic aggressors, Femen was there to condemn state homophobia in Morocco," the movement said in a statement.

Local authorities decided to deport the two women protesters, identified as French nationals, for having attempted to "damage public morals", the national news agency MAP reported.

Femen, a group that originated in Ukraine with an emphasis on feminist issues, has won world notoriety for its topless stunts.

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

The trial, which opened on March 28, 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.

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.