Gay tourists released from Gambian jail

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Two Spanish tourists arrested in the Gambia for allegedly trying to solicit gay sex from taxi drivers have been released and left the country.

Earlier reports indicated that Juan Monpserratrusau, 54, and Pere Joan, 56, were to appear in court charged with attempting to commit an “unnatural offence,” contrary to Section 124 of the country’s Criminal Code.

However, it is thought the Spanish government intervened.

Nicola El Busto, an official at the Spanish embassy in the Gambia, told AP the men had left the country last week.

Last month the President of Gambia said gay men and lesbians must leave the country within 24 hours or face “serious consequences.”

In the wake of the Spanish arrests the Foreign Office updated its guidance for British visitors.

“Although there are no laws specifically covering homosexuality in the Gambia, the Gambian Criminal Code states that any person who has, or attempts to have, “carnal knowledge” of any person “against the order of nature” is guilty of a felony and could face imprisonment.

“The Gambian courts may interpret homosexual acts as falling under this part of the Code.

“The Code also states that gross indecency between men, whether in public or private, is a felony and anyone committing this felony could face imprisonment.

“We have received reports that the police are actively enforcing this Code.”

The mostly Muslim nation of 1.7 million people punishes homosexual acts, even in private, with up to seven years in prison.

A former British colony, the country has been ruled by President Jammeh since a bloodless coup in 1994.

According to the Department for International Development, tourism is the second largest employer and is the main foreign exchange earner in the Gambia.

British companies are heavily promoting the Gambia as a welcoming destination.

The country, notorious for “sun, sea and sex” holidays, with affluent Western women flocking to the beach resorts to have sex with local men, hopes to reposition itself as a family destination.

In 2004 the annual GDP growth rate was 8.3% but poverty remains high with an estimated 59% of the population living on less than one dollar a day.

President Jammeh has issued a ultimatum to “homosexuals, drug dealers, thieves and other criminals” to leave The Gambia or face serious consequences if caught.

“Any hotel, lodge or motel that lodges this kind of individuals will be closed down, because this act is unlawful.” he said.