A Conservative MEP has condemned arrests made in Northern Cyprus for “unnatural intercourse” after the self-declared state’s leader told her he had drafted a repeal of the law.

Marina Yannakoudakis, who represents London in Strasbourg, called for an immediate moratorium on arrests today.

Her concern was echoed by the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT rights after reports emerged that two men, one of whom is reported to be Nigerian, were arrested on 29 January.

Northern Cyprus declared itself an independent state in 1983 but has not had international recognition.

It currently criminalises gay sexual acts under section 171 and 173 of its criminal code.

Northern Cyprus is not a member of the EU and not bound by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In December, Ms Yannakoudakis had praised Derviş Eroğlu for “agreeing to decriminalise homosexuality [...] taking concrete measures to ensure those living in the north part of Cyprus may enjoy the same human rights as their fellow Europeans”.

But the MEP said today: “Dr. Eroğlu has twice promised me that the northern part of Cyprus would repeal the ban on homosexuality. I have so far taken him at his word, but now he needs to back up these words with deeds.

“There must be an immediate moratorium on arrests under Section 171 and the men arrested last month must be released without delay. Draft legislation submitted by the Communal Democratic Party must be fast-tracked through the assembly to ensure that there are no further miscarriages of justice and Dr. Eroğlu must keep his promise to sign the repeal into law.”

Ms Yannakoudakis had previously visited the divided city of Nicosia after three men were arrested on “suspicion of conspiring to have a sexual intercourse against the order of nature”.

The latest arrests are said to be the third time in eight months the law has been used to arrest gays.

Eleni Theocharous MEP, a Cypriot member of the LGBT Intergroup, commented: “The prosecution of citizens based solely on their sexual preference constitutes a vulgar violation of elementary human rights. I call upon the regime subordinate to Turkey in the occupied area of Cyprus to immediately release the two men and desist from any legal action against them.”

She added: “I call upon the European Parliament and the international community to exert pressure on Turkey for the solution of the Cyprus problem, so that the EU’s ‘acquis communautaire’ is consequently implemented throughout Cyprus”

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the LGBT Intergroup, said: “The current Criminal Code wrecks lives, and Derviş Eroğlu’s promise must be followed by steadfast action. I will personally go to Cyprus in order to meet him, other leaders and NGOs, and encourage repealing this outdated piece of legislation which has no place in Europe—or anywhere in the world.”

Ms Yannakoudakis continued: “I am also concerned about the manner in which these arrests were reported in ‘Kıbrıs’, the leading Turkish-language newspaper in Cyprus. The newspaper released the names and even pictures of the two men concerned and reported the arrest in an extremely derogatory tone.

“It is important not only to change the laws in the north part of Cyprus, but to change attitudes to ensure that all Cypriot adults may engage in consensual sex – be it with the same or different gender – without fear of punishment or pillory.”