A Morocco appeals court has upheld the convictions of six men arrested under the country’s sodomy law.

The six defendants were convicted in May of accusations ranging from “homosexuality, inciting prostitution, mediating in prostitution and being drunk in public”, with at least four charged under Section 489 of the penal code, which criminalises “lewd acts” with people of the same sex.

According to Human Rights Watch, the convictions were upheld based on statements made while in custody, which defendants say they were threatened into making.

The court called no witnesses and reviewed no evidence during the appeal.

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said: “Moroccan authorities should stop prosecuting and jailing people for their intimate behavior with other consenting adults.

“Whatever the sexual orientation of these six defendants, they shouldn’t face criminal penalties because of it.”

“If Morocco aspires to be a regional leader on human rights, it should take the step of abolishing its laws that discriminate against private activity between consenting adults because they are of the same sex.”

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Morocco with punishments ranging from six months to three years imprisonment and a fine of 120 to 1200 dirhams (£19-£194).

But members of the Party of Justice and Development – the Islamist party that heads the country’s coalition government – are strongly opposed to removing the law.
Morocco’s constitution “commits to banning and combating all discrimination toward anyone, because of gender, color, beliefs, culture, social or regional origin, language, handicap, or whatever personal circumstance”, but does not mention sexual orientation.