Nigeria frees on bail 69 arrested over alleged gay wedding

FILE PHOTO: Some of the men charged with public displays of affection with members of the same sex are seen gathered outside a court

By Tife Owolabi

YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) -A court in Nigeria has released on bail 69 people who were arrested last month in connection with an alleged gay wedding, which is illegal in the country, their lawyer said on Tuesday.

In Nigeria, like in most parts of Africa, homosexuality is generally viewed as immoral on cultural and religious grounds, and the country implemented an anti-gay law in 2014 despite international condemnation.

A court sitting in southern oil-producing Delta state ruled that the suspects would be released from prison detention after posting 500,000 naira ($645) bail each to the court, lawyer Ochuko Ohimor said.

The suspects, who did not appear in court, were ordered to sign a register at the court in Warri town once a month until their next hearing, said Ohimor.

"They are to provide sureties, who will submit their particulars to the court. So, the 69 suspects have been granted bail and I am processing their paperwork," Ohimor said.

State prosecutors had opposed bail but the court ruled that the suspects should be released because they were not facing a capital offence, said Ohimor.

State prosecutors could not be immediately reached for comment.

The anti-gay law in Africa's most populous nation includes a prison term of up to 14 years for those convicted, and bans gay marriage, same-sex relationships, and membership of gay rights groups.

($1 = 775 naira)

(Reporting by Tife Owolabi, writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Jon Boyle, Hugh Lawson and Christina Fincher)