Posted by News Express | 16 February 2014 | 3,599 times
An Abuja mob, wielding wooden clubs and iron bars and screaming to “cleanse” their neighbourhood of gay people, on Thursday dragged 14 young men from their beds and assaulted them, human rights activists claimed yesterday.
Four of the victims were marched to a police station, where they allegedly were kicked and punched by police officers who yelled pejoratives at them, said Ifeanyi Orazulike of the International Centre on Advocacy for the Right to Health.
The Police operatives threatened that the men would be incarcerated for 14 years, which he said, the maximum prison sentence under the new Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, dubbed the “Jail the Gays” law.
“Since the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act was signed, we have expressed concern as a friend of Nigeria that it might be used by some to justify violence against Nigerians based on their sexual orientation,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement at the weekend. “Recent attacks in Abuja deepen our concern on this front.”
The police spokeswoman for the Federal Capital Territory, Deputy Superintendent Altine Daniel, said she was unaware of the attack but would try to get details.
Orazulike said he got a panicked email from a colleague who said he was hiding from a mob of 40 people who struck around 1 a.m. Thursday, going from house to house saying their mission was “to cleanse” the area of gays. He said they used pieces of wood and iron to beat up 14 young men. Orazulike said he drove from his home at 4 a.m. to save the man in Gishiri, a shantytown with mud roads near central Abuja.
Those attacked are in hiding and too scared to speak to reporters, he said, recounting their story.
“They were told ‘If you come back, we will kill you.’”
The walls of houses where the men lived have been painted with graffiti declaring “Homosexuals, pack and leave,” he said.
Orazulike said he went to the police station later on Thursday and met with a senior officer who ordered the four men released because there was no evidence that they were gay and they had not been caught having sex.
Four of them were severely injured and others suffered bruises, he said. They were treated at his organisation’s clinic because they were afraid to go to the hospital.
“They said the police slapped and kicked them and swore at them,” he said.
Dorothy Aken’Ova, executive director of Nigeria’s International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights, said she stayed up all night Wednesday trying to get police and Civil Defence to send officers to the scene after she got a phone call from a man who was being attacked.
“Instead of helping them, apparently some of them were arrested,” she told AP. “None of the (law enforcement) agents responded to our distress calls.”
Dozens of allegedly gay people have been arrested since President Goodluck Jonathan signed the bill into law in January. It not only forbids gay marriage, which carries a 14-year jail sentence, it makes it a crime for anyone, straight or homosexual, to hold a meeting of gays or to advocate human rights for gays. Convicted offenders can be jailed for up to 10 years.
•Excerpted from Nation.
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