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Australian convicted of sodomy in Fiji released on bail

Australian convicted of sodomy in Fiji released on bail

A retired Australian university lecturer and a Fijian man sentenced to two years in prison for having gay sex in Fiji were released on bail Tuesday after appealing their convictions, a lawyer said. The Lautoka High Court granted bail to Thomas Maxwell McCoskar, 55, and Dhirendra Nada, 23, who received the two-year sentences last week after admitting to charges of committing "an unnatural offense and indecent behavior." McCoskar said he had just retired and had traveled to Fiji for "some fun," and the pair admitted to engaging in consensual sex and taking photographs of themselves naked between March 24 and April 3. At the sentencing, the magistrate described their behavior as "something so disgusting that it would make any decent person vomit." Lawyers for the pair--who did not have legal representation at their original trial--say the convictions were unconstitutional because the judge was prejudiced against them. Iqbal Khan, representing McCoskar, said provisions in Fiji's 1998 constitution outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation and enshrining a right to privacy override the country's ban on gay sex. "Without any doubt there has been a miscarriage of justice, in my opinion, by virtue of the Fiji constitution and international human rights conventions," Iqbal said. "The police should not have charged him [McCoskar]." The lawyer said the magistrate's comments at the sentencing would form part of the appeal, which is expected to take up to 10 weeks. While Fiji's laws prescribe up to 14 years' imprisonment for homosexual activity, prosecutions are now rare. Advocates for Fiji's gay community are pressing the government to abolish antigay laws, but they are fiercely opposed by the powerful and deeply conservative Methodist Church of Fiji. (AP)

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