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Pakistan court
jails same-sex couple

Pakistan court
jails same-sex couple

A court in Lahore, Pakistan, on Monday jailed a same-sex couple for three years for perjury, prompting the defendants to ask the president for help.

The case of Shumail Raj, who was born female but had two operations to remove her breasts and uterus 16 years ago, and Shahzina Tariq has made waves by raising issues of homosexuality and transsexuality that are taboo in this conservative Muslim society.

The couple, who married last year, had approached the Lahore high court for protection against harassment by Tariq's relatives. However, the judge accused them of lying about the biological sex of Raj, 31.

Court-appointed doctors examined Raj and decided she was still a woman--something the couple acknowledged later in court. Raj has expressed a desire to go abroad for further surgery.

Presiding judge Kahawaja Mohammed Sharif, announcing their conviction for perjury, said he was issuing a ''lenient'' sentence, below the seven-year maximum, because they had apologized.

The judge also fined them $165 and dropped a charge of committing an act of unnatural lust, which can be punished by life in prison.

Raj and Tariq, 26, appeared shocked by the verdict.

The pair's eyes widened as Sharif announced their punishment, and they briefly clasped each other's arms before police led them away.

Defense attorney Zahid Husain Bilal said the couple would appeal and that they hoped for acquittal.

''They were not alerted at any stage of the proceedings that they could be penalized,'' Bilal said.

Raj, wearing a short-sleeved white shirt and jeans, urged Afghanistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to step in.

''We appeal to President Musharraf to intervene,'' Raj told reporters outside the court. ''Musharraf is talking about moderation and enlightenment. We hope he will do something for us.''

Asked about the prospect of three years in different jails for women, she said: ''No matter, no matter. We love each other.''

Tariq, wearing a dark veil, said nothing as the two got into a waiting police van and drove away.

The court will resume hearings on June 22 on whether to annul the couple's marriage, which Tariq's family says contravenes Islam as well as Pakistani laws against same-sex unions.

The couple initially said that they wed to protect Tariq from being sold into marriage to pay off her uncle's gambling debts. They later admitted they had lied about Raj's sex because they were in love and wanted to live together.

The judge on Monday ordered police to open a criminal investigation against the surgeons who operated on Raj and detail their findings at the June hearing. (Asif Shahzad, AP)

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