Cameroon denies homosexuals face persecution

HT gardening The asylum seeker from Cameroon has spent four years in the UK

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Cameroon's government has rejected the claim by a gay asylum seeker in the UK that he would face persecution if he returned home.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court in London ruled in favour of the man, and a similar claimant from Iran.

Homosexuality in Cameroon is punishable by up to three years in jail.

However, Cameroon's communications minister told the BBC homosexuals were free to behave as they wished in private without any harassment.

"Homosexuality is forbidden by the law, there is not doubt. But what I can emphasise is the fact that no homosexual is persecuted in Cameroon"," Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma said.

He told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the claimant was simply using the law as an excuse to claim asylum in Britain.

"Do you think he is the only gay person in Cameroon?"

'Angry mob'

The two men who have won the right to claim asylum in the UK and been refused by the previous British government.

Gay asylum seeker HT: 'If I go back I will live my life in fear'

That decision was backed by a lower court, on the grounds that they could avoid ill-treatment by keeping their sexuality secret or behaving discreetly.

But the Supreme Court judges ruled that this was a violation of their human rights.

The applicant from Cameroon, who is only identified as HT, had been told he should relocate elsewhere in his country and be "more discreet" in future.

He had been attacked by an angry mob at home after being seen kissing his partner. He has been fighting removal from the UK for the past four years.

"Some people stopped me and said 'we know you are a gay man'," HT earlier told the BBC.

"I cannot go back and hide who I am or lie about my sexuality.

"If I go back I will live my life in fear."

HT and the applicant from Iran, where homosexual acts are punishable by death, will now have their cases reviewed by immigration tribunals.

The BBC's Randy Joe Sa'ah in Cameroon says apart from a few lawyers and the popular Cameroonian singer Petit Pays, there are no groups advocating gay rights in the country.

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