Libya: release of 'gay partygoers' delayed

A Libyan militia is continuing to hold 12 allegedly gay men, despite saying it intends to hand them over to the Ministry of Justice.

The 12 were seized at a party last Thursday by vigilantes from the Private Deterrent Force – part of the Nawasi Brigade which is Tripoli's largest Islamist militia.

A statement posted on the vigilantes' Facebook page said the men were "of the third sex" and had been "arrested" for "practising the customs of sodomites".

The Facebook page was deleted after the story started attracting attention in the international media and the Nawasi Brigade laterdenied the men had been abducted because of their sexuality. It said the "main reason" was noise from the party, together with "large amounts of alcohol and hashish" found on the premises.

Today, a report from the Libya Herald suggests the militia has delayed releasing the men because they are still recovering from being beaten.

“There are lots of marks on their faces ... They cannot release them until they heal or people will see,” a source is quoted as saying.

The Libya Herald also has new details about the attack on the party:

It has now emerged that the militia was monitoring the house in which the festivities were taking place and moved to break up the party after they spotted one of the guests dressed as a woman.

“They were on a routine patrol when they heard the music” said Ahmed, a friend of the group who was himself invited to the party that evening. “They were sitting outside for nearly half an hour. Then they saw one of the guys wearing a wig and a dress so thought it was girls having a party with boys.

“When they came inside the farm, everyone panicked and the man pulled off his dress and wig. They wanted to know where the girls were, so they beat them until one of them admitted he was gay and that’s when they were taken away.”

According to Ahmed, not his real name, another friend witnessed the militia storming the farm from his car. “He was about to go inside himself when he saw the Nawasi and he ran away.”

Another friend of the abducted men insists the issue is their sexuality: 

"The alcohol and cannabis belonged to the band ... and they were released the same day," he told the Libya Herald. "Our friends are being held because they are gay."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 29 November 2012.