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Nigerian Gays Charged With Sodomy, Could Face Death Penalty

An Islamic Sharia court in northern Nigeria has ordered 18 men to be kept in prison pending their trial for alleged sodomy. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports that the men were arrested for allegedly hosting a gay marriage in a predominantly Muslim city.

The 18 men could face the death penalty if convicted. They were arrested in a hotel in Bauchi, were said to be wearing female clothing and had gathered to celebrate a gay marriage.

Local officials say the men's action contravened Islamic law, which governs Bauchi state in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria.

Bala Ahmed, spokesman of the Bauchi state sharia commission, says the suspects were all young men.

"They are young; they are very young, promising children if they use the best of their knowledge and their time," he said. "They are all youth, they are 18 years, 20 years, 25 years. Nobody, I believe, among them is up to 30 years. Fine and handsome-looking, but they are misusing their time, misusing their opportunity to get involved in this evil practice."

Bauchi is among a dozen states in northern Nigeria practicing Sharia since 2000, following the end of military rule.

More than 10 Muslims have been convicted for sexual offenses and sentenced to death by stoning. Most of the sentences have been commuted to prison terms or rejected on appeal. But Ahmed says the Islamic council is determined to extract maximum punishment for the 18 men.

"If they are found guilty, let them be punished, so that it will serve as a deterrent to those who are intending to do this," he added. "Because we want to stop this menace completely. We don't want to hear about this homosexuality in our society."

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a southern Christian, unsuccessfully initiated a bill to ban gay marriage in Nigeria. Like many African countries, Nigeria is a conservative society where homosexuality is considered a taboo.