Homosexual couple in Morocco tortured... then imprisoned for defending themselves
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A video showing a homosexual couple being tortured has provoked widespread condemnation throughout Morocco, where attacks against homosexuals are on the rise. But perhaps the most shocking part is the way in which the authorities reacted.
WARNING: THESE IMAGES ARE DISTURBING
Taken by one of the four attackers, the amateur video shows two men, naked and bleeding, being beaten and humiliated in their home in Beni Mellal, a town in the centre of Morocco. The footage was filmed in early March, but the video only appeared online at the end of the month.
The attackers beat and insult the two men, who are sitting on the bed. The two men try to put their clothes back on, but their torturers stop them, and the macabre scene continues. The video ends after the two victims are thrown naked onto a public road.
The four assailants were later arrested – but so too were the victims. The first victim has already been handed a fine totalling 500 Moroccan dirhams [Editor's note: around 45 euros] and sentenced to four months behind bars for 'homosexuality', in accordance with article 489 of the Moroccan penal code. The court also threw out his self-defence plea, finding him guilty of 'assault and battery'. The second victim will be judged on April 4.
In a press release, local NGO Mouvement alternatif pour les libertés individuelles (Mali) [Editor's note: Alternative movement for individual liberties'] has called for the release of both men. It has also called on authorities to overhaul article 489 of the Moroccan penal code, which criminalises same-sex relations.
Ibtissam Betty Lachgar is an activist who co-founded the NGO Mali.
"Homophobia is a crime! Not homosexuality! But here, state homophobia exists. The state legitimises homophobic acts. The victim is deemed guilty for his 'perverted' behaviour, while the assailant is only prosecuted for assault and battery, and not for violence driven by discrimination."
Abdellah Taïa is a Moroccan writer living in exile in France. He conveyed his outrage on Facebook.
"It's becoming more and more dangerous to be homosexual in Morocco. The state considers them as little more than criminals and offers them no protection. There are more and more cases of gays being attacked by ignorant, hate-filled mobs. Who will save them? Who will protect them?"
In a report, Human Rights Watch has also called for the abolition of article 489, which in addition prevents victims of homophobic violence from going to the police to press charges.
This article was written in collaboration with Radoslav Minchev of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).