Three Gambian citizens facing homosexuality-related charges are asking the country’s High Court for their release on bail, the Gambian newspaper The Point reported.
The defendants — Alieu Sarr, Momarr Sowe and Modou Lamin Bittaye — are the only three remaining in custody among about 15 allegedly LGBT people arrested last fall in an anti-gay crackdown in the Gambia.
Nearly three weeks ago, Sarr was reported in perilous condition in a heavily guarded hospital room.
Defense counsel Gaye Coker said he remains in Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul, which is an important reason for granting his application for release on bail.
She said the men were arrested on Nov. 9 near the resort town of Kololi, then were held by Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency until Dec. 24, when they were arraigned at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on one count of homosexuality.
The applicants pleaded not guilty and were sent to Mile 2 Central Prison.
The homosexuality charge was withdrawn at the Magistrate’s Court on Jan. 21 and replaced at the High Court with multiple charges of unnatural offenses and conspiracy , she said.
The defendants pleaded not guilty those charges also. Coker said there is no evidence that they committed the crime. In fact, she said, when they were arrested, they were in the company of female friends, not with men.
If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. They are apparently not being charged under Gambia’s new law against “aggravated homosexuality,” which carries a life sentence.
The prosecution said that the bail application should be rejected because of procedural errors.
Arguments on the bail application of Bittaye were heard in chambers.
Further action on the bail requests was scheduled for Feb. 17.
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