More arrests for "gay sex" reported in Northern Cyprus

(Editor's note: For an understanding of the complicated situation in Northern Cyprus, which is a self-declared state that calls itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, click HERE.)

It has emerged that at least five men have been arrested in Northern Cyprus for "homosexual offenses," not three as previously reported.

The Cyprus Mail reports that in addition to former finance minister Michalis Sarris there are four others aged 14, 16, 17 and 29. ILGA-Europe says that they believe there are seven now in custody.

During Monday’s remand hearing in Nicosia, Northern Cyprus police requested a further eight day remand for those already seized to take testimonies from 20 more people, three of whom were missing.

At the hearing four men complained of police brutality in detention but a judge ordered them back into detention, though the court also ordered that all five be examined by a doctor.

The three teenagers were taken from the court in handcuffs with T-shirts pulled over their heads to a waiting press outside the courtroom as friends looked on in sympathy.

I understand that there has been much speculation in the North Turkish media regarding sexual contact between Sarris and a teenager based on the alleged charge of sex with a minor despite their being no such charge, only the homosexual offense of 'committing an unnatural act', which is a hangover from the British Empire. The Cyprus Mail report was illustrated with a picture of Sarris being paraded in front of the cameras by police with one of the teenagers.

Northern Cyprus group Initiative Against Homophobia has accused the Northern Cyprus media in their reporting of the case of 'normalizing an attitude of hatred' and 'feeding homophobic reports and comments to the public'.

The Cyprus Mail reports that:

A doctor who examined both Sarris and the 17-year-old testified before the court, ruling out the possibility of sexual contact between the two. She also told the court that the 17-year-old had a wound on his forehead which did not exist when he was first examined on Friday.

ILGA-Europe claims that:

"Their [the arrested] dignity was breached when the men were made to undergo anal examinations in a hospital to prove that [the sodomy law] has been breached."

On Saturday, Turkish Cypriot police rounded up two teenagers, aged 14 and 16, claiming that the 14-year-old had confessed to having sexual relations with the 29-year-old. They also said they had a written confession from the 17-year-old regarding his relations with Sarris. This was after raiding a house in North Nicosia and arresting Sarris and two others.

The 17-year-old has continually alleged police brutality and named the alleged police perpetrators in court who he said beat him to extract a 'confession'. The 29-year-old, the Cyprus Mail said, had injuries showing clearly on his face.

A member of the Council of Europe’s Legal Affairs and Human Rights committee, Christos Pourgourides, who was present at the hearing, said that he would take the case to the Council.

A lawyer pointed out to Cyprus Mail that as Northern Cyprus police are controlled by Turkey it would be Turkey taken to the European Court - despite homosexuality being legal there.

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the Intergroup on LGBT Rights in the European Parliament, today called for the release of the men:

"The binding jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights must be implemented immediately in the whole island of Cyprus," he said. "The criminalisation of homosexuality has no place in the 21st century.”

ILGA-Europe has also sent a letter to the President and the Prime Minister of Northern Cyprus demanding the men's release.

ILGA-Europe say that they have been asking for the sodomy statute to be removed from the books for some time. They say they met with the Speaker of the Assembly, Hasan Bozer, in 2010 and were assured that he was well aware of the problem with the law and were told it was no longer enforced.

In July, two were charged with 'unnatural intercourse' in Northern Cyprus, which carries a five year imprisonment term.

The [Cypriot] Cyprus Republic in the south of the island decriminalised homosexuality in 1998.

Head of the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation Emine Erk said earlier that the use of the sodomy law is “usually mixed up with something else. Usually police are trying to pressure someone involved on some other issue.”

LGBT Asylum News urges action today for LGBT asylum seekers and asks activists to encourage friends and contacts to visit website for details or to check on any updates to this story.

To read the original story or to check for updates, click HERE.

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