Last month, Nigerian raided a gay wedding at a hotel in southern Delta state’s Ekpan where they initially arrested 200 guests. After investigations took place, police detained 69 of the guests. At the time, state police spokesman Bright Edafe told reporters that homosexuality “will never be tolerated” in Nigeria.
Now, the 69 suspects have been released. Yesterday, a high court in Warri, Delta state ruled that the detainees could be released after posting a 500,000 naira (roughly $643) bail.
“They have been granted bail officially by the court under very reasonable terms,” lawyer Ochuko Ohimor, who represents all 69 suspects, told CNN in an interview.
“All of them should be out this week. They need a surety who will show evidence of income and must be resident within the judicial division. The surety should be able to earn at least one million naira ($1,290) in a year.”
Ohimor also told CNN that he has faced “serious criticism” for taking the gay wedding attendees on as clients.
“I have been scandalized,” he said.
“Some say I’m a gay lawyer that’s why I’m defending them. People look at me with disgust for standing for them.”
Homosexuality, as well as same-sex marriages, is outlawed in Nigeria and can result in a punishment of up to 14 years in prison, or 10 years for accomplices.
In Nigeria, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act carries up to 14 years in jail for gay individuals, and so, unfortunately, arrests of gay people are all too common. Accomplices also face 10 years in prison. Last month’s arrest is one of the country’s largest targeted arrests against homosexuality.
Amnesty International’s Nigeria office condemned the arrests and called for “an immediate end to this witch-hunt.”
“In a society where corruption is rampant, this (same-sex) law banning same sex relationships is increasingly being used for harassment, extortion and blackmail of people,” Isa Sanusi, the organization’s director in Nigeria, told The Associated Press last month.
Nigeria is one of a growing list of African countries that have anti-LGBTQ laws that criminalize same-sex relationships. Uganda recently signed a new law that carries a death penalty for some “homosexual offenses.”