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Gay men plead for
leniency in Fiji sodomy case

Gay men plead for
leniency in Fiji sodomy case

Two gay men challenging Fiji's sodomy laws on Wednesday made passionate pleas in the country's high court not to be returned to jail, reports the Fijilive Web site. Thomas McCoskar, a 55-year-old retired schoolteacher from Victoria, Australia, and Dhirendra Nadan, 23, of Tavarua, Nadi, are appealing their two-year sentences and convictions for engaging in gay sex and creating pornography for distribution via the Internet earlier this year.

The decision on their appeal will be delivered by Justice Gerard Winter in Lautoka on Friday. Both men made passionate pleas for freedom. McCoskar said he came to Fiji in March for a holiday without knowing of Fiji's strict sodomy laws. "It was not publicized in Australia that homosexual [activity] is illegal in this country," he said. "If I knew that, no way will I engage in this practice. I have been taught to always be cautious. I am supported by my partner of 25 years, my family is suffering, and I am suffering. I would like to return to my country of birth."

Nadan, with the assistance of a Hindi interpreter, requested he not be sent back to jail because he had been looking after his family since the death of his elder brother. "I don't want to go back to prison because I feel bad and embarrassed," he said. "If I am sent back, I will do something bad to myself." Both men had their bail extended.

Their lawyer, Natasha Khan, earlier questioned the constitutionality of the sodomy law and its impact on gays in Fiji. "The sodomy laws will be used by police, for example, for the purpose of blackmail and extortion," she said. "It is not properly utilized, so every known homosexual can be penalized by the court." Khan also denounced public opinion against legalizing homosexual activity, saying that such opinion has no place in court. "We have to protect the minorities," she said.

Sodomy is a felony that carries a maximum of 14 years' imprisonment. The case is believed to be a first in Fiji in which the inconsistency between the constitution and the penal code on laws relating to homosexuality is brought before the courts. While the constitution--Fiji's supreme law--guarantees the rights of sexual minorities, the penal code forbids sex between men.

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