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Moroccans tried for homosexuality get four months

BY SMAIL BELLAOUALLI, ASSOCIATED PRESS

RABAT, Morocco -- A Moroccan court has convicted two men of homosexuality and public indecency, and sentenced each to four months in prison, in the latest case against gays in this North African nation.

Prosecutors at the Temara court near Rabat, the capital, said at Monday's trial that the men, aged 28 and 19, were caught having sex in a car and arrested. The men denied the charges.

Moroccan law outlaws homosexuality and gives a penalty of six months to three years in prison and a fine of up to 1,000 dirhams ($115). According to the latest figures available from the Ministry of Justice, in 2011 there were 81 trials involving accusations of homosexuality.

The daily al-Akhbar reported on May 9 that three other Moroccans from the northern town of Souq al-Arbaa recently received three-year sentences for homosexuality.

While harsh penalties exist on the books toward drinking alcohol publicly, selling alcohol to Muslims, sex outside of wedlock and other so-called moral crimes, they are rarely enforced in Morocco and police usually ignore people violating such laws.

However, in the case of homosexuality, it is still taboo in this conservative society, and the lawyers for Monday's defendants were quick to distance themselves from "this phenomenon."

"If we thought our clients were homosexuals, we would refuse to defend them," one of the lawyers said to the judge in court. He refused to identify himself to The Associated Press afterward.

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