On March 31, 2016 Amnesty International reported: Six university students in Tunisia have been freed following an international campaign for their charges and punishments for the (non-existent) ‘crime’ of sodomy to be dropped.
They’d each been facing three years in prison since December 2015, when after a court found them ‘guilty’ of homosexual relations.
Arrested at a partyCalling the police on your student neighbours because they’re having a party.
We might associate such a complaint with an antisocial issue – noise, perhaps.
For six male students in the city of Kairouan in Tunisia, it was much more serious than that. They were at a house party on 2 December when police arrived to arrest them on allegations of ‘sodomy’. Being gay is illegal in Tunisia – punishable by a maximum of three years in prison.
Tortured in custodyThe men were taken to a police station where some of them say they were beaten. A lawyer representing one of the men said that he had seen signs of violence, and that one student had had his nose broken.
Each young man was charged with ‘sodomy’. Police then took them to hospital for an intrusive anal examination against their will to ‘prove’ the charges – an act that counts as torture in custody. The men were seen individually by a forensic doctor at the hospital, who asked them to consent to the anal examination. Each man refused; one by one, they signed refusal forms. Yet the form had no power – the men were taken from the room and beaten by police officers, who forced to go back into the room and ‘consent’ to the probe. Their refusal forms were torn up, and they were made to sign an agreement form against their will.
The day after they were arrested and examined against their will, it got worse: they were put on trial for allegations of homosexual relations. A week later, on 10 December 2015, they were each sentenced to three years in prison simply for being gay.
Three years is the maximum punishment people convicted of ‘sodomy and lesbianism’ under Article 230 of the Tunisian Penal Code. They were also banned from the city of Kairouan for five years after release, under Articles 5 and 22 of the Penal Code. Fearing for their livesThe men were released on bail on 7 January, after spending nearly a month in prison, but the damage was done. They were marked as criminals. Their lawyer told us that the students had been threatened since they’d returned from their trial, and were then too afraid to go outside. They were living in constant fear of violence – and new accusations against them.