Police in Cameroon have arrested 25 men on suspicion of being gay.
Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon, with those convicted of homosexuality facing up to five years in prison.
The arrests were made in the early hours of Saturday morning, as police raided institutions in the capital city of Yaoundé which are known to be popular with the local gay community.
The officers broke the door down at Le Mistral, a cabaret, after failing in their attempts to convince staff that they were simply customers trying to get into the locked venue.
One of the seven people arrested at the cabaret – which included a dancer, a waiter and security guard – said: “We informed them that the tavern was already closed, but they forced the door open.
“Then they took us [to jail] without any reason,” he added, according to news site Erasing 76 Crimes.
The raid on the bar had echoes of a similar incident in 2016, when dozens of men were reportedly arrested in Mistral on suspicion of homosexuality after being trapped inside by officers.
After police carried out the raid on Saturday, they immediately moved on to a cinema often used by gay people in the area, arresting 18 moviegoers.
The 25 men who were arrested were then taken to the police station.
Police Commander Parfait Nana said that two people had been released because they were “witnesses.”
He promised: “The remaining 23 will be interrogated; conclusions will be reached at the close of the investigations.
“I already can reassure you that several types of violations have been identified, such as lack of a [national identity card], possession of narcotics and homosexuality.”
The commander said that despite the raids, he was not acting out of malice towards gay people.
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“Personally, I do not judge anyone and do not condemn anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation,” he said. “However, Cameroon has laws to enforce.”
The remaining 23 people were interrogated and tortured for two days.
They were then released on Monday without charge.
One of the 23 victims said: “Despite threats by the police, we kept our cool. We were brutalised and then we were released.”
Before they were allowed to leave, parents of the arrested men reportedly attempted to convince officers at the station to let them go, only to be told that they were gay and therefore deserved to be punished.
It is common in many countries around the world for people to be arrested for homosexuality.
Indonesian police have repeatedly done so, with two men who were arrested for having gay sex in April currently facing up to 100 lashes as punishment.
In October 2017, a total of 12 men were arrested in Tanzania for “promoting homosexuality” – that is, for having gay sex.
Also in October last year, the Egyptian purge escalated as 33 people were reportedly arrested for being gay.