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SENEGAL

Four men arrested in Senegal over baton attack on homosexuals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 9:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 9:44pm
 

Police in Senegal have arrested four young men accused of hunting down and injuring gay men with stones and batons, an official said.

They targeted five gay men on Thursday night, said Mamadou Faye, a police official in the city of Rufisque just outside the West African country's capital, Dakar.

"The suspects were arrested on Friday for destruction of property and causing injury," Faye said on Monday.

He declined to go into more detail because of the investigation, but said: "They wanted to clean their neighbourhood, which they said was infested with homosexuals."

A Rufisque-based representative of the HIV/AIDS organisation Prudence, who insisted on anonymity out of fear for his safety, said the assailants used batons and stones in the attack. More than four people took part, the representative said.

Anti-gay sentiment runs deep in Senegal, where the penal code calls for prison sentences of up to five years and fines of up to US$3,000 for committing "an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex". Since 2008 the country has been gripped by what Human Rights Watch describes as an anti-gay "moral panic", with arrests and mob justice on the rise.

On Friday, a judge sentenced two men to six months in jail for engaging in gay sex.

In Rufisque, public opinion appears to be on the side of the alleged assailants. More than 100 residents including local imams took part in a march on Friday calling for their release, said Charles Niang, who helped organise it. Niang said residents would continue to demonstrate until the four men were freed.

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