An international congress on gay rights in Muslim countries has been told that the north African nation of Morocco may grant rights to homosexuals “within fifty years.”

A representative of a gay group in the country, Kif-Kif, said that although homosexual acts are still illegal, they have unofficial contacts with the Moroccan Socialist Party, reports DPA.

The group has 3,000 members in Spain, France, Canada and Morocco.

Article 489 of the country’s criminal code provides prison terms for people who commit “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.”

In January a leading human rights organisation called on the authorities in Morocco to release six men jailed under that law.

They were arrested by police between November 23rd and 25th 2007, after a video circulated online, including on YouTube, purporting to show a private party, allegedly including the men, taking place in Ksar el-Kbir on November 18th.

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

At an appeal the men’s sentences were reduced but their convictions upheld.

The six men range in age from 20 to 61 years old.

A leading human rights organisation has called on the authorities in Morocco to release six men jailed for “lewd and unnatural acts.”

They were arrested by police between November 23rd and 25th 2007, after a video circulated online, including on YouTube, purporting to show a private party, allegedly including the men, taking place in Ksar el-Kbir on November 18th.

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

At an appeal yesterday the men’s sentences were reduced but their convictions upheld.

The six men range in age from 20 to 61 years old.

Amnesty International issued a fresh call for their release.

According to lawyers for the defendants, the prosecution failed to present any evidence that the men actually had engaged in the prohibited conduct in the first place.

At the trial, all six men maintained their innocence of the charges.

All denied that they had engaged in same-sex sexual relations during the party.

The Youtube video was broadcast at the trial but did not present any evidence of “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.”

Despite the lack of evidence, the men were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms and fines.