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Tunisia court cuts youth's sentence for homosexual activity

17 December 2015, 21:18

Tunis - A Tunisian appeals court Thursday reduced the sentence imposed on a student for homosexual activity from one year to two months, his lawyer said, adding she would appeal the "unacceptable" conviction.

The student, known by the pseudonym of Marwen, was also ordered to pay a fine of 300 dinars (130 euros/$140), said Fadoua Braham.

Also read: UN fears 'atrocity crimes' in Burundi, urges action

Marwen, who was on bail pending the verdict, will remain free because the revised sentence is equivalent to time he had already served since his arrest in September.

Braham said the appeals court judge's ruling was "unjust and unacceptable".

Marwen was detained in the Mediterranean resort area of Sousse for questioning in connection with a murder after his telephone number was found on the victim.

He denied any involvement in the murder but admitted to having had sexual relations with the victim.

Marwen was then forced to undergo an anal exam against his will, Fadoua said at the time.

Local rights groups ATSM and Shams condemned the original verdict, calling anal exams "scandalous."

They call for decriminalising homosexuality in Tunisia by revising Article 230 of the penal code, according to which sodomy between consenting adults is punishable by up to three years in prison.

In July, a Swedish man was given two years behind bars in Tunisia for "homosexual acts."

On Wednesday, 13 human rights groups called on Tunisia to repeal the law that criminalises homosexuality practice after six students, who had also been forced to undergo anal examinations, were jailed.

Last week, a court in the central city of Kairouan handed down the maximum term of three years in jail to the six youths for homosexual activity after their neighbours "denounced" them.

They were also banned from the city for a further five years.

Without commenting on the question of homosexuality, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi took issue with that element of the punishment.

"Banishment... is unreasonable," he said in remarks broadcast by Mosaique FM radio. "I will not interfere in the judicial system, but there are things that human beings cannot accept."

During an interview with an Egyptian broadcaster in October, Essebsi ruled out a repeal of the law.

"That will not happen," he said. "I reject it."



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