The release from prison of several men arrested on suspicion of homosexuality following the publication of photographs of a same-sex “marriage ceremony” led to riots, acres of print and media coverage and now a conspiracy theory.

The fact the men were released has led local media to speculate that they were threatening to reveal “high-ranking state officials” are gay.

Afrol News reports that “dozens of Senegalese homosexuals” have left the country to escape death threats.

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.

Earlier this month the African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights has expressed concern over the rise of homophobia and hatred of homosexuals in Senegal.

Muslim organisations in the African nation have warned against “enemies of the faith and of morality.”

The arrests followed the publication in local magazine Icones photographs of a “marriage ceremony” between two Senegalese men.

After all the men were released gangs of protestors clashed with riot police in front of Dakar’s main mosque.

The anti-homosexual demonstration had initially been authorised by police, but they changed their mind and used tear gas to disperse the crowd, who blockaded roads and burned piles of rubbish.

Public reaction in the mainly Muslim former French colony has been stridently anti-homosexual.

“The police wanted to ban the march,” demonstrator Landing Goudiaby told Reuters.

“Homosexuals are not welcome in our country. They’re not tolerated in Senegal.”