Gay rights activists have called for a group of men arrested in Senegal on suspicion of homosexuality to be released from prison.

In a letter to Senegalese Minister of Justice, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and PAN-Africa ILGA have demanded the immediate and unconditional release of up to 20 gay men.

An unknown number have been arrested in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, since Sunday morning.

Local magazine Icones published photographs of a marriage ceremony between two Senegalese men.

Sources report that the photographs were sold to the magazine by the photographer for 1,500,000 CFA francs (£1,500).

The arrests were reportedly undertaken upon the orders of Mr. Asane Ndoye, head of the Senegalese Police’s Division of Criminal Investigation.

“Mass arrests of people simply because they are gay terrorise the entire community,” said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s executive director.

“The inhuman treatment of gay men and lesbians must stop. We call upon the world community to enforce international human rights law.”

“We are afraid for our lives, especially those of us shown in the photographs,” said Jean R., a Senegalese gay activist who spoke to ILGA and IGLHRC from a hotel where he is seeking refuge.

“Some of us have gone into hiding and others are fleeing the country.”

Senegal is one of the few Francophone African countries that penalise homosexuality.

Homosexual acts are punishable by imprisonment of between one and five years and a fine of 100,000 to 1,500,000 CFA francs.

While there are occasional arrests and convictions of gay men in Senegal, social stigma and blackmail are the most prevalent abuses faced by gay men in the country.