Nigeria Islamic court acquits men of gay sex charge

Two men appear before an Islamic court in Bauchi, Nigeria (22 January 2014) Islamic courts operate in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria

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An Islamic court in northern Nigeria has acquitted two men accused of having gay sex and belonging to a homosexual club.

There was a lack of evidence to convict the young men, the judge ruled.

These are the first acquittals since Islamic courts in Bauchi city began trying a group arrested late last year for alleged homosexual offences.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Nigeria under Islamic and secular law - the latter was tightened in January.

Same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection are now banned throughout Nigeria.

'Wearing shorts'

Court clerk Abdul Mohammed told Reuters news agency that the men were acquitted because no-one saw them having sex.

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Map showing gay rights around the world

"He [the judge] said sodomy is punishable with death and requires the testimony of four witnesses to the act and in the case of the two men, no-one saw them committing sodomy," Mr Mohammed is quoted as saying.

The men were arrested after residents raided a home in Bauchi, finding one of them wearing shorts while the other was fully clothed, Reuters reports.

Five people have been convicted of homosexual offences by Bauchi's Islamic courts since January.

They were sentenced to 20 lashes each.

The cases of five other suspects are pending, including that of a Christian who is expected to be tried in a secular court.

Most states in the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria have adopted Islamic law, known as Sharia, since the end of military rule in 1999.

Nigeria is a deeply conservative country, where the majority of people - Christian and Muslim - are opposed to homosexuality.

Gay Nigerian It is illegal for same-sex couples to show any affection in Nigeria

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