A human rights movement has called on the Moroccan government to repeal a law that demands prison terms for consensual homosexual acts.

The petition, launched by Human Rights Watch and the Moroccan Human Rights Association, also asks for the release of six men currently imprisoned under this article of the penal code, and demands that the government protect the rights to privacy and a fair trial.

Police arrested the six men in November 2007, after a video was circulated on the internet, including on YouTube, showing a private party in Ksar el-Kbir, a town between Rabat and Tangiers.

Press reports claimed the party was a “gay marriage”.

The prosecution produced no evidence at trial that the defendants had violated Article 489, which provides prison terms for persons who commit “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.”

The men, who ranged from 20 to 61 year of age, all denied the charges.

On December 10th, after demonstrators marched through the town demanding that the men be punished, a court in Ksar el-Kbir sentenced them to between four and 10 months in prison.

A Tangiers appeal court on January 15th upheld their conviction but reduced their sentences slightly.

“This trial shows how an unjust law can be used to violate the basic right to privacy and fuel social prejudice,” Joe Stork, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division told PinkNews.co.uk.

“When a trial is as unfair as this one, people should protest to the authorities,” Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Human Rights Association added.

“Beliefs may differ, but everyone shares the desire for justice.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Morocco has ratified, bars interference with the right to privacy.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has condemned laws against consensual homosexual conduct as violations of the ICCPR.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that arrests for consensual homosexual conduct are, by definition, human rights violations.