Authorities in fiercely antigay Nigeria arrested 53 men for attending an unofficial same-sex wedding, though the accused’s lawyers say they were actually at a birthday party.
Homosexuality, including LGBT events and organizations, has been banned in the central African nation since 2014 and police have aggressively arrested gay and bisexual men since; punishments include up to 14 years in prison and public whippings. Activists like Olumide Makanjuola (pictured) say the 2014 law has legitimized police violence against LGBT people.
The arrests last Saturday occurred in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna. The northern half of Nigeria is heavily Islamic, with a strong Christian influence in south Nigeria. Homosexuality is condemned by most people throughout the country, according to the BBC. After gay and bisexual men were arrested in 2014, a violent homophobic mob met the accused at the courthouse and nearly started a riot.
The lawyer for those arrested in Kaduna said most of the men were students and weren’t attending anything close to a gay wedding; it was a birthday party. The men were also illegally detained for 24 hours, according to the attorney.
The men are charged with conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and belonging to an unlawful society. Their court date is scheduled for May 8.