Gay Nigerian men face being stoned to death

Two Nigerian men appeared in court on Wednesday charged with committing sodomy and could now face being stoned to death after they were caught together in a toilet in this northern Muslim city.

The hearing came just days after a senior United Nations envoy called on Nigeria to drop homosexuality from the list of crimes punishable by death under the strict version of Islamic law in force in the north of the country.

Yusuf Kabir (40) and 18-year-old Usman Sani appeared before Judge Mustapha Sani Saulawa at Katsina’s Sharia Court Number Three, expecting to face the first substantive hearing in their case since their arrest on June 19.

They appeared together in the witness box, tied together by the hems of their faded blue and brown kaftans to prevent them running away, only to see proceedings postponed while prosecutors prepare the case against them.

“Since the prosecution could not produce its witnesses before this court today, I hereby adjourn the hearing until August 3, while the accused are to remain in prison custody,” Saulawa told the crowded courtroom.

According to an initial police report, which a court official showed to a reporter from news agency AFP, the pair were arrested after local resident Lawal Umar saw them having sex in a toilet in the Kerau city district and alerted the police.

Islamic sharia law was reintroduced in Katsina state in August 2001, making it one of a dozen mainly Muslim northern states to have readopted the code since Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999.

Under the interpretation of Muslim legal texts in force, sexual offences such as adultery, rape and homosexuality are punishable by death.

But, while more than a dozen people have been convicted under these laws, no one has yet been stoned to death and the law remains controversial.

On Friday last week, Philip Alston, a special rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights, ended a visit to Nigeria with a call for the death penalty to be dropped in cases of homosexuality.

“Sodomy cannot be considered one of the most serious crimes for which, under international law, the death penalty can be prescribed. The punishment is wholly disproportionate,” he said, publishing initial findings.—Sapa-AFP

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