Wednesday, 19 October 2011

More arrests in Northern Cyprus for supposed gay sex

Northern Cyprus politician Michalis Sarris is paraded outside the court by police with one of the teenagers arrested
By Paul Canning

It has emerged that at least five men have been arrested in North 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.”

Update: The Greek Cypriot group Accept LGBTI Cyprus has issued a statement:
“We call on the international community, the European Union and also the Cypriot Republic to immediately exert pressure to ensure that the legal statues of the Cypriot Republic, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, is applied and the charges, thereby dropped.“
Turkish Cypriot daily Ortam reports that on Monday, outside the court, the New Cyprus Party (YKP) and seven civil society organizations gave a press conference saying "We do not want a homophobic state".

Writing in, Fiona Mullen says that Sarris is suffering "Death by a thousand tweets"

She said that rumours about him are rife in Cyprus:
"One Turkish Cypriot suggested that the reason the police tried to make a more serious case was because they did not realise until after the arrest that they had caught “a big fish”, so rather than suffer the embarrassment of jailing someone just for homosexual sex, they had to scrabble for more serious charges. We shall probably never know if that theory is true."
Update, 20 October: Michalis Sarris has been released today on bail.

Update, 21 October: According to a legal source speaking to Cyprus Mail, Sarris faces the charge of committing an unnatural act with the 17-year-old. For the same act, he is being charged with conspiracy to commit a felony.

Police in the north are also claiming two separate incidents of indecent assault involving two males. The first involves a 16-year-old Turkish national who was not brought to court by police during any of the remand hearings. This 16-year-old is believed to be serving a jail sentence for a drugs-related offence. 

The second charge of indecent assault is connected to a 22-year-old Turkish national currently in detention for being in possession of a fake passport.

British Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis says that she received assurances from Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu yesterday that he would sign a decriminalisation bill 'should it land on his desk'.

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu yesterday,
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