British MEPs raise alarm over north Cyprus gay sex arrests

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu has reportedly promised to sign a repeal of the gay sex ban into law.

European parliamentarians have voiced concern over the arrest of two men in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus under British colonial-era laws criminalizing gay sex.

Two men at the central prison in Nicosia appeared in court on Sunday on charges of having “sexual intercourse against the order of nature,” the BBC has reported.

According to the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, neither man had a lawyer representing him during the appearance.

Gay sex is not a crime in either Turkey or the Republic of Cyprus, which makes up the southern portion of the island.

Marina Yannakoudakis, a British Conservative Party MEP who has been lobbying Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu to junk the ban, said Eroglu had given assurances that he would sign its repeal into law.

However, the repeal has yet to be debated in the northern Cyprus parliament, and Sunday’s court appearance represents the third time in eight months that arrests have been made under Section 171 of Cyprus’s Criminal Code, which carries a punishment of five years for homosexual acts.

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Michael Cashman, a British Labour Party MEP and joint head of the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, said the ban “wreaks lives, and Dervis Eroglu’s promise must be followed by steadfast action.”

In October three men were arrested in a private home in north Nicosia under Section 171, the European gay news service Pink News reported.

One of the men was Michael Sarris, a former Republic of Cyprus finance minister, who escaped prosecution by crossing the border and re-entering the republic, according to the BBC. The other two men are still under investigation in the north.  

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