The Ethiopian government has backed away from plans to further criminalise homosexuality, saying that it is “not a serious crime”.

Government spokesman Redwan Hussein confirmed that homosexuality would no longer be added to a list of serious crimes that are non-pardonable, a move that had been threatened last month.

He told Associated Press: “It is not a serious crime. Plus, it is not as widespread as some people suggest. It is already a crime and a certain amount of punishment is prescribed for it. The government thinks the current jail term in enough.”

Hussein also backed away from an anti-gay demonstration that was due to be held by religious groups on April 26.

Dereje Negash, the organiser of the rally, which has now been cancelled, said: “Currently I’m being threatened by the gay community for organizing the rally. Despite the threat, I will continue to pursue my struggle against the gay community.

“I believe I have been given a task by God to do this. I will do this even if it means life or death.

Homosexuality is already criminalised in Ethiopia, and same-sex sexual acts can lead to 15 years in prison, or 25 years if HIV was transmitted.

Uganda, which recently further criminalised homosexuality, has been hit by a string of Western aid cuts which threaten to spark a serious financial crisis.