Torture by police followed by the dangers of release back into Senegal’s homophobic society. That is the testimony of men who were arrested Oct. 16 at an alleged “gay wedding”, then ordered released by the court on Nov. 6.
Demba Dieng (a pseudonym), a leader of the FREE Collective that works to ensure the human rights of LGBT people in Senegal, described the former prisoners’ testimonies of torture suffered at the central police station of Dieuppeul.
“Detainees were stripped, assaulted with stun guns, and pressured to confess their alleged homosexuality. Some of them … can no longer sit. ”
He added, “They were denied a visit to the doctor. However, the judge handed down the sentences based in part on confessions obtained through torture. The 13 people who will be released are those who refused to confess to imaginary crimes or misdemeanors linked to alleged homosexuality.”
The court handed down prison sentences against seven of the suspected homosexuals who were arrested at a party described by police as a “gay marriage”. Two of them were sentenced to six months in prison; five, to three months.
Of 13 arrestees who were released, one was acquitted of all charges. The others were released for lack of sufficient evidence.
To date, four minors are still detained with judgment on their case deferred.
Although the arrests and trial took place against a background of blatant homophobia, the two men sentenced to six months in prison were found guilty of “disturbing public order” and “organizing an unauthorized demonstration.” The five men sentenced to three months’ imprisonment were found guilty of “disturbing public order”.
Senegalese media have chosen to describe the case as being linked to offenses for “acts against nature”.
Islamist pressure delayed the release of the 13 men, at least in part for their own safety. Some have been now been released.
Souleymane Diouf (pseudonym), who is in charge of the FREE Collective, said the ex-prisoners will need psycho-social counseling.
“Some will be able to return to their families, but others will not,” he said. “Those will need temporary shelter. The others, even if they return to their parents, will face problems in their neighborhoods.”
In the recent past, thanks to the support of donors outside Senegal, the FREE Collective helped 10 homosexuals to flee the country after they were arrested on Sept. 20 by the religious militia of the holy city of Touba.
People and organizations wishing to provide financial support to the FREE collective can write to [email protected]