Amnesty calls on Tunisia court to overturn homosexuality prison terms of trans woman, gay man
Amnesty International on Sunday called on a Tunisian court to overturn the prison sentences of a transgender woman and a gay man convicted of homosexuality.
An appellate court is due to hold an appeal trial on Monday after a lower court convicted the two and sentenced the woman to three years in jail and the man to one.
Their sentencing in December came after police raided a residence in the town of Hammamet earlier that month, arresting eight people suspected of performing homosexual acts. Lawyer Safouen Jouili said they were questioned without legal representation. Two were charged while the rest were let go because of a lack of evidence.
"It is appalling and unacceptable that Tunisia's judiciary continues to interfere in people's private lives by authorising police to conduct arbitrary home raids permitting the prosecution of individuals on allegations related to their sexual orientation and identity," said Amnesty's deputy Middle East and North Africa director Amna Guellali.
"The Nabeul Appeal court should take this opportunity to repair the damage done by past violations, overturning the sentence and acquitting them would be a step in the right direction.
"Article 230 which criminalises same-sex activity is deeply homophobic and must be urgently removed from Tunisia's Penal Code.
"The government should order an immediate halt of arrests and prosecutions in relation to this provision."
Same-sex sexual activity is punished by up to three years in jail under Article 230, which dates back to the French colonial era, but has remained in force since Tunisia's independence in 1956.
Monday's appeal trial comes after it was reported in January that a Tunisian court had dropped a long-running, symbolic case against a gay rights activist who faced prison for alleged homosexual acts, according to a court official and a rights group.
The appeals court in Kairouan city ruled the case against activist "Daniel" was null and void, rights group Damj said. "It's a victory for Daniel and a victory for us," Damj told AFP.
Court spokesman Riadh Ben Halima confirmed the ruling, saying it was on the basis of "procedural irregularities, as police had searched his computer without a warrant".
In 2015, Daniel and five other men were charged, and then sentenced to three years in prison and banned from living in Kairouan province for a further three years.
They appealed the verdict and in 2016 their sentences were reduced to 40 days in prison before Tunisia's top court in 2018 sent the case back for another appeal on technical grounds.
By then, five of the men had fled abroad and found asylum, but Daniel remained in Tunisia and was hauled back to court in December.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community face widespread discrimination, criminalisation and violence in the Middle East and North Africa.
Agencies contributed to this report.