Three gay men were stoned by a huge mob in a homophobic attack in Jamaica this Wednesday.

Police came to rescue the men from a pharmacy in Saint Andrew Parish, where they had been hiding for almost an hour.

An angry crowd had gathered outside the pharmacy, hurling insults and threatening to kill the men.

When the police arrived, the mob demanded the men be handed over to them.

The police tried to escort the men to their car, but the crowd began to throw stones at the objects of their hate, hitting one of them on the head.

Finally, officers were forced to disperse the crowd with tear gas. According to the Jamaica Observer, as many as 2000 people were involved in the attack.

Jamaica’s gay rights movement, J-Flag, is forced to operate underground and anonymously.

They told PinkNews.co.uk that far from being heroes, the police acted with equal homophobia:

“They began to beat a man who was trying to make peace in the situation and ended becoming a target as a result,” say J-Flag.

“The police did eventually help the three men and the peacemaker to leave the store, but only after four of them had beaten the peacemaker with their guns and fists, insulting him and calling him a homosexual.

“The men were whisked away in a police car. While in the vehicle, all the way to the police station, the men were taunted by the police with anti-gay epithets.

“The insults continued even when the men arrived at the Half-Way Tree police station, where other police joined in the name-calling.

“The policemen at the station told them that they should be grateful and warned them never to return to Half-Way Tree.”

J-Flag have praised the actions of the shop workers, who called the police and sheltered the men.

They added: “We wish to reiterate that a society in which any Jamaican can be denied his or her rights as a citizen is a Jamaica in which no Jamaican is guaranteed his or her rights.

“We urge the authorities to accord this matter the attention it deserves as a matter of justice and human rights.”

International human rights organisations have described Jamaica as one of the most homophobic places in the world.

Gay and lesbian relationships are largely conducted in secret.

Sex between men in Jamaica is illegal, and punishable with up to ten years in jail, usually with hard labour.

In December 2003, a World Policy Institute survey on sexual orientation and human rights in the Americas said that: “In the Caribbean, Jamaica is by far the most dangerous place for sexual minorities, with frequent and often fatal attacks against gay men fostered by a popular culture that idolises reggae and dancehall singers whose lyrics call for burning and killing gay men.

“Draconian laws against sexual activity between members of the same sex continue to be in force not only in Jamaica, but in most of the English-speaking Caribbean.”

According to Amnesty International, the gay and lesbian community in Jamaica faces “extreme prejudice” and are ‘routinely victims of ill-treatment and harassment by the police, and occasionally of torture.”

Amnesty has highlighted the growing problem of vigilante action against gays and lesbians – Wednesday was just one example of this.

In 2004, the organisation revealed that “gay men and lesbian women have been beaten, cut, burned, raped and shot on account of their sexuality,” and that they are one of the “most marginalised and persecuted communities in Jamaica.”

Political parties have ignored the issue of gay rights. Indeed, homophobia is flourishing amongst politicians and the police.

For example, opposition leader Bruce Golding vowed last year that “homosexuals would find no solace in any cabinet formed by him.”