NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — Authorities in Mauritania have arrested 10 men after a video appeared on social media of a gay couple appearing to take part in a traditional wedding ceremony, human rights groups said.
Police later determined the gathering was a birthday party but the men remain in custody with no trial date set yet.
Mauritania practices strict Islamic law known as Shariah and homosexuality is criminalized. If convicted, the men could face the death penalty though executions have not been carried out in more than a decade, according to Amnesty International.
“It is a serious attack on the individual and collective freedom of these young people who have the right to display their difference and intimate preferences,” said Brahim Bilal, the president of a human rights organization in Mauritania.
Video of the festive ceremony prompted an outcry to what was suspected of being the first gay marriage in Mauritania.
The Nouakchott public prosecutor’s office then opened an investigation, and the police arrested the 10 young men. The case marks a rare enforcement of Islamic law: In 2018 Human Rights Watch said there were no known cases of people being jailed or sentenced to death for homosexual acts in Mauritania.
Same-sex acts are illegal in more than 33 African countries and can lead to death sentences in parts of at least four, including Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria and southern Somalia, according to Amnesty International.