The Moroccan Embassy has defended its tough stance against homosexuality – as gay British man Ray Cole is released from prison pending an appeal.

The 70-year-old ex-magazine publisher from Deal, Kent, was imprisoned for four months with his Moroccan partner Jamal Jam Wald Nass, after images were found on his phone in Marrakech.

On Tuesday evening, the Moroccan Embassy announced that Mr Cole had been granted a conditional release.

He is due before an appeals court judge tomorrow, where he will learn if charges of committing “homosexual acts” will be dropped.

In a statement sent to PinkNews, the Moroccan Embassy in London said:-

Mr Ray Cole was apprehended on 18 September 2014 by police officers in Marrakech following complaints made by citizens who had contacted the police authorities to protest against indecent public behaviour they had witnessed from Mr Cole and a Moroccan national in his company.

Based on these complaints, the local police authorities conducted a routine investigation which led to material evidence of homosexual activity, which is strictly prohibited under Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code of Morocco. Article 489 criminalizes “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex” which are punishable from 6 months to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of 120 to 1200 dirhams.

This offence is also clearly highlighted in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advice section on Morocco, which equally underlines the importance of “respecting local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times” and refraining from conduct which may be deemed offensive or improper by the local population.

Accordingly, based on the evidence found against him, the public prosecutor launched formal legal proceedings on 20 September 2014, following which Mr Cole was found guilty of homosexual activity by the Court of first instance of Marrakech and sentenced to 4 months imprisonment on 2 October 2014.

We are sympathetic to the distress felt by the family of Mr Cole following his arrest and detention and every effort has been made to address their concerns. Moroccan and British authorities are working closely together to resolve this case as rapidly as possible, in a manner that is respectful of the norms and customs of both our countries. Access to consular assistance and a legal defense has been duly provided to Mr Cole, who has exercised his right of appeal and is due to appear in front of the Judge of the Court of Appeals tomorrow, 8 October 2014. In the meantime, Mr Cole is to be granted conditional release today.

The Moroccan Embassy has also been in close contact with Mr Cole’s family to whom we have offered every reassurance regarding his fair treatment and safety, as well as providing them with any assistance or advice they may need in taking this case forward within the Moroccan justice system.

The Embassy did not mention Jamal Jam Wald Nass in the statement.