The USA has condemned the United Arab Emirates after twelve men were jailed for participating in a gay wedding.
Officials in the country discovered 26 men preparing for a same sex ceremony, eleven of them confessed whilst 14 were acquitted.
An official said: “A United Arab Emirates court has jailed 12 men who were arrested after being discovered preparing for a gay wedding, but acquitted another 14 defendants. They were sentenced to five years in prison for homosexuality and one year for obscenity.”
“Another man was sentenced to one year in prison for obscenity, but was acquitted of homosexuality charges… while 14 others have been released after being found not guilty,” he said.
The 26 defendants, including UAE citizens, an Indian and three citizens of neighbouring Arab countries, were arrested in November when police raided a hotel in a desert resort town.
Emirates Today reported the men were caught in a hotel “dressed in women’s clothes and makeup in preparation for a gay wedding”.
The official said the verdict was not final and could go on appeal.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Muslim UAE and neighbouring Gulf countries, where offenders could face flogging along with imprisonment, while foreigners could also face expulsion.
The group defended themselves in court saying they were proud of their act and were keen to practice it.
Last April, a court in neighbouring Saudi Arabia sentenced two Saudis, one Yemeni and a Jordanian to two years in jail and 2 000 lashes after a police raid on an alleged gay party.
Across the Gulf in non-Arab Iran, repeated sodomy carries the death penalty.
The US also called on the UAE to stop reported plans for forced hormone treatment on the suspects, which an interior ministry official then denied.
Last year PinkNews.co.uk reported that a 22 year old Iranian escaped his home country after being subjected to 100 lashes which left his back covered in huge bloody welts after officers discovered he was gay.