Human rights organisations are working to establish whether a number of men have been executed in Iraq for being gay.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Iraq but is seen as a taboo. Last week, six gay men were shot and killed in the Baghdad Shiite slum of Sadr City

Amnesty International reported in early March that Iraqi authorities were planning to execute 128 unnamed prisoners in the following days.

Last week, this claim was repeated by London-based group Iraqi LGBT who said five gay men were among the 128.

Some news providers are now reporting that all 128 men are gay and a petition citing this figure is circulating.

However, Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT said reports of all 128 men being gay were false.

He said: “That’s a mistake. It appears to have been spread around by bloggers. We never said they were all gay.

He added: “We are still trying to get more information inside Iraq but it is very difficult. The issue is very sensitive.

“We have had confirmation from two police officers. We are only aware of five men who are to be executed for homosexuality although we have heard that 20 were detained.”

Amnesty International has not yet been able to confirm if the executions, which were originally scheduled for last month, have taken place or whether the men were to be executed for homosexuality.

Human Rights Watch is also trying to confirm what has happened.

Advocacy director at the organisation, Boris Dittrich, said he was “very concerned” about the reports.

He said: “We are working on this and assessing the situation. We are speaking to witnesses and are very busy calling people in Iraq. We are also in contact with embassies in Iraq.”

Last week, Mr Hili released a letter to UK Gay News which he said was from a member of Iraqi-LGBT in Baghdad.

The sender said he was to be executed shortly for being a member of the group and pleaded for help.

The letter was translated from Arabic into English and its authenticity could not be verified as the name and address on it had been removed.

A spokesperson for the US State Department told Boston EDGE that the story has no merit.

“Homosexuality is not a crime in Iraq,” said John Fleming, the public affairs officer for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

“The individuals condemned to death in Iraq have been convicted of violent crimes, including murder, terrorism, insurgency and kidnapping.”

“None were convicted of the ’crime’ of being homosexual,” Fleming said. “In fact, it’s immaterial to Iraqis.

“Frankly, there are other issues they’re concerned about like basic survival, getting food and water. It’s a luxury for the average Iraqi to worry about homosexuality.”