Three men in Northern Cyprus have been arrested for sexual “acts against nature”.

The men were arrested in a private home in north Nicosia last Thursday and have already spent five days in custody.

Turkish Cypriot police have applied to hold them for a further two days, citing the need for more time to investigate.

They were arrested on the charge of “conspiring to have a sexual intercourse against the order of nature”, an offence which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

According to the Cyprus Mail, former finance minister Michalis Sarris, 65, was one of the three arrested. The other men were aged 17 and 30-something.

Unlike Cyprus, the Northern Republic still has British colonial laws against homosexuality. In July, newspaper reports said two men were arrested for having sex in a hotel.

Cypriot members of the European Parliament, Eleni Theocharous and Ioannis Kasoulides, have called for the immediate release of the three men.

They said: “These arrests are in full breach of international law and the human right to private life. Charging them is illegal under human rights law, denies their most basic rights, and is wholly unnecessary as no harm was done. Consenting adults have the right to engage in sexual intercourse with people of the same sex, these men must be freed now.”