Rabat - A Moroccan court has jailed six men for up to three years on various charges including "homosexuality", a rights group said on Wednesday.
Despite its liberal reputation compared with other parts of the Arab world, Morocco remains a conservative Muslim country whose government is led by a moderate Islamist party and where gay sex is illegal, punishable by a maximum three years in prison.
The six defendants were convicted on Monday of accusations ranging from "homosexuality, inciting prostitution, mediating in prostitution and being drunk in public," said Ahmed Amin Chaabi, from the Moroccan League for the Defence of Human Rights.
The court in Faqih Bensalah, around 170km south of Rabat, handed down prison sentences of one, two and three years.
It also ordered the expulsion of the accused from the town once they have served their jail terms, under article 41 of the Moroccan penal code, according to Chaabi.
The six men were arrested on 17 April after the father of one of them filed a lawsuit against three people, accusing them of encouraging his 19-year-old son to become homosexual and saying it was influencing his behaviour and his studies, Chaabi said.
"International conventions seek to protect the family... and what happened is against nature and against the morals and values of society," he added.
"Love is not a crime"
Moroccan civil society activists have called for homosexuality to be decriminalised in a video posted on the Internet ahead of the international day against homophobia on 17 May.
In the video, part of the campaign "Love is not a crime" launched by the group Aswat ("Voice" in Arabic), six civil society activists appealed against homophobia.
"People have the right to make their choice, to do what they want with their bodies as long as they don't harm others," said the writer Abdallah Bida.
But members of the Party of Justice and Development, the Islamist party that heads the coalition government, have strongly criticised the campaign.
PJD deputy Amina Maa el-Ainein on Tuesday urged the minister of Islamic affairs to take action against it.
"These messages which praise homosexuality are not only harmful to our Muslim culture but amount to breaking the law," she told parliament.