By Nimi Princewill, CNN
(CNN) — A Nigerian court has freed on bail more than 60 people arrested last month during a police raid on a suspected gay wedding, their lawyer told CNN after a bail hearing Tuesday.
More than 200 people were arrested at the alleged wedding party in the southern Delta State on August 28 – one of Nigeria’s biggest mass arrests in recent years targeting the country’s LGBTQ community.
Sixty-nine of them were prosecuted for “allegedly conducting and attending a same-sex wedding ceremony,” their lawyer and police said.
Same-sex relationships are criminalized in Nigeria, and its penal code approves lengthy prison sentences of up to 10 and 14 years respectively for people who are convicted of witnessing or entering into a same-sex civil union.
Ochuko Ohimor, a lawyer for the 69 suspects, told CNN they will be released this week once their bail conditions are met.
“They have been granted bail officially by the court under very reasonable terms,” he said.
“All of them should be out this week. They need a surety who will show evidence of income and must be resident within the judicial division. The surety should be able to earn at least one million naira ($1,290) in a year,” he added.
The suspects, aged between 16 and 40 years, were not present in court for the bail hearing, according to Ohimor, who also said the court will reconvene at a later date for a further hearing on the matter.
Their bail request was granted by the Delta State High Court.
The suspects were first paraded to the media by police before being charged to court.
A police official described the alleged gay wedding as evil, adding “we cannot copy the western world… we are Nigeria, and we must follow the culture of this country.”
Ohimor told CNN he has faced “serious criticism” for defending the suspects.
“I have been scandalized,” he added. “Some say I’m a gay lawyer that’s why I’m defending them. People look at me with disgust for standing for them.”
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