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Cablegate: Nigeria: Trial Update - Bauchi Cross-Dressers

O 111516Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3075
INFO AMCONSUL LAGOS
AMEMBASSY LONDON
AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE
ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
NSC WASHINGTON DC
CIA WASHINGTON DC
DIA WASHDC
HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS ABUJA 001081

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: TRIAL UPDATE - BAUCHI CROSS-DRESSERS

THIS MESSAGE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On May 22, Poloffs attended a meeting of gay,
lesbian, and transgender rights organizations regarding the case of
18 young men from Bauchi State arrested in August 2007 for allegedly
displaying homosexual behavior. Defense attorney Ralph Monye
elaborated on the case to date, as well as the frustrations he and
the 18 young men have regarding the prosecutor's handling of the
case in the shari'a court, and what appears to Monye and the Bauchi
18 to be unfair, homophobic treatment. Despite attempts by
homosexual rights NGOs to use the case to further their human rights
agenda, the accused men maintain they are not, in fact, homosexual
nor are they cross-dressers. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On May 22, Poloffs attended an Abuja meeting of gay,
lesbian, and transgender rights organizations regarding the case of
18 young men from Bauchi State arrested in 2007 for allegedly
cross-dressing and attending a homosexual wedding. In attendance
were representatives from The Independent Project (TIP), Global
Rights, Alliance Rights Nigeria, International Gay and Lesbian Human
Rights Commission, House of Rainbow, the lead defense attorney
Ralpha Monye, two of the Bauchi 18, and several other interested
guests. The meeting was part of a two day conference concerning the
case and efforts to promote homosexual rights.

3. (SBU) Monye expressed frustration with the prosecutor's handling
of the case, the shari'a court, and his and the Bauchi 18's
declining morale due to allegedly unfair, homophobic treatment. The
Bauchi 18 were initially arrested by Hisbah police and charged with
being "Idle Persons and Vagabonds" for allegedly cross-dressing at
what police maintain was a same-sex marriage in Bauchi State. The
charges were later upgraded by the shari'a court to idleness,
cross-dressing, indecent or obscene behavior, and conspiracy to
commit criminal acts. Under the shari'a penal code, the punishment
for these offenses is 30 cane lashes, 20 lashes, 40 lashes and 6
months imprisonment, respectively.

4. (SBU) The trial commenced on August 21, 2007; however, it was
adjourned to September on the prosecutor's request. Monye maintains
when he and the Bauchi 18 were leaving the courthouse that day, a
mob of several hundred people assaulted them with rocks and
vandalized their cars. According to Monye, he and the Bauchi 18 hid
in the judge's chambers until the police dissipated the mob by using
tear gas and firing shots in the air. There have been at least 6
scheduled court dates since the August 21st incident, each adjourned
or cancelled at the last minute due to various excuses from the
prosecutor. The case was most recently scheduled for hearing on
June 4; however, it was once again adjourned when the prosecutor and
seven of the 18 defendants failed to show up.

5. (SBU) According to Monye, he has become unenthusiastic about the
case and oftentimes considers dropping it altogether. (NOTE: Monye
has taken on the case pro bono and complains he has spent
significant money traveling to Bauchi -- only to have the case
repeatedly adjourned.) Many of the Bauchi 18, as well, have become
disheartened, and some have stopped showing up for hearings (as
evidenced by the low turnout at the June 4 hearing), risking new
arrest warrants. Several of the men have to travel from hours away
and overnight in Bauchi for each court date - an expense which they
simply cannot afford. Also, the young men are subjected to ridicule
and alienation from their families and peers, so much so that some
of them have had to close down their businesses due to a lack of
customers because of the case. Monye said he also falls victim to
continuous ridicule from his colleagues and others, many of whom
assume him to be a homosexual due to his affiliation with the Bauchi
18.

6. (SBU) COMMENT. Although same-sex marriage is outlawed throughout
Nigeria, the Bauchi 18 are not being charged with this offense, but
rather with a range of lesser offenses which would not even be
considered illegal in non-shari'a courts. Interestingly, while the
NGOs want to draw publicity to the case and use it to further their
own human rights agenda, the accused continue to maintain they are
not homosexual, nor were they cross-dressed, and that they were
attending a graduation / wedding party for one of the men's sisters.
We will continue to follow this case closely. END COMMENT.

SANDERS

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