Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton will stand trial for assault on a group of gay men. The arrest follows long standing criticism of his attitudes to gay men in his songs.
Jamaican police claim that Banton was one of a group of men who forced their way into a house in Kingston in June last year and beat six men who they accused of being gay.
Mr Banton was bailed for $J50,000 after he pleaded not guilty to the charges at the preliminary hearing at the local magistrates court.
Banton’s trial will take place this Friday (30th September). OutRage! the gay rights group led by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has long campaigned against artists such as Banton who they argue incite violence against gay men and women in their song lyrics.
Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Brett Lock said that the trial will be a test case for the rights of gays in Jamaica. “Some Jamaicans fear that Mr Banton’s celebrity and the strongly homophobic attitudes that exist in Jamaica will deny justice to the victims of what was a horrific homophobic assault. We pay tribute to the police officers who eventually pressed ahead with these charges, despite huge pressure not to do so. It our hope that the court will show similar resolve.
Buju Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, became notorious in the early 1990s with his violently homophobic hit single, Boom Bye Bye, which incited his audience to shoot “batty boys” (gays) in the head, pour acid over them and set them on fire.