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Cameroon releases
nine men jailed for being gay

Cameroon releases
nine men jailed for being gay

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission helped broker detainees' freedom.

The West African nation of Cameroon on Friday relented to pressure from human rights groups and released nine men imprisoned for a year because they were gay.

The freed men were part of a larger group of 17 men arrested in May 2005 at a Cameroonian nightclub believed to be popular with gays and lesbians. Eleven men remained detained--held on suspicion of sodomy--who were too impoverished to hire a lawyer or find a way to be released. On March 17 two more men were released for lack of evidence--along with pressure from human rights groups, including the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission--and the trial was scheduled for April 21. When the judge found the prosecution ill-prepared and without witnesses, he acquitted all nine men of any charges.

"While nothing can return to these men the year of their lives spend locked in a cell, we are hopeful that rule of law and respect for human dignity are reemerging as basic principles of human rights in Cameroon," said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC's senior coordinator for Africa.

When IGLHRC was alerted to the arrest days after it occurred, the group arranged for a local attorney to take the men's case, provided assistance to help the men survive the harsh conditions of their detention, and demanded their release from Cameroonian and United Nations officials.

In a communication to IGLHRC, Cameroon minister of justice Amadou Ali wrote, "Positive African cultural values are preserved," adding that "homosexuality is not a value accepted in the Cameroonian society."

Cameroon has garnered international attention this year because of its tabloids routinely outing African and European celebrities as well as the nation's policy of detaining citizens on sodomy charges and expelling students for their sexual orientation. (The Advocate)

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