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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

More arrests of gays in Northern Cyprus

Flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern CyprusImage via Wikipedia
By Paul Canning

Northern Cyprus LGBT group Initiative Against Homophobia reports that three more men have been arrested for homosexuality.

The three were charged with “relations against nature” 14 October.

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

Northern Cyprus is the only country in Europe which retains such laws, in their case a relic of the British Empire.

According to the Cyprus Mail, one of those arrested is Michalis Sarris, a former finance minister.

Sources told the Cyprus Mail that the Turkish Cypriot authorities raided a house in north Nicosia, arresting three males: Sarris and two Turkish Cypriots, believed to be aged 17 and 30-something. The same sources said police in the north raided the house without a warrant.

Initiative Against Homophobia claim that the three "have been subjected to police violence."

Head of the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation Emine Erk said that she hoped that the high-profile arrest of a former finance minister and World Bank employee in connection with an alleged offense that has been decriminalised throughout Europe may bring attention to the need to change the law in the north.

Erk said that the law is “not very commonly applied”, with few charges actually been pressed.
“It’s usually mixed up with something else. Usually police are trying to pressure someone involved on some other issue,” she said, adding that raiding a private residence was also “not very common”.
The [Cypriot] Cyprus Republic decriminalised homosexuality in 1998 five years after gay activist Alecos Modinos won his battle at the European Court of Human Rights but it took another two years to have deliberately offensive terms describing homosexual relations removed from the new legislation and then only under threat from Europe.

In 2002, parliament removed a further bone of contention, equalizing the age of consent for heterosexuals and homosexuals to 17.

The Cyprus Mail notes that if Turkish Cypriot police pursue the case and it goes to trial, a further line of defense will be to question the validity of the crime itself since it violates the European Convention on Human Rights which the North has bound itself to.

Initiative Against Homophobia accuse 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 group has called on "all concerned citizens, activists and human rights supporters not to remain silent and join us in voicing our concern in front of the State Courts in Nicosia."
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