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The 21 activists who had been arrested for attending an LGBTQ event in May have been acquitted. The activists were taken into custody by police in a move that caused outrage among rights groups.
Twenty-one LGBTQ activists, arrested in May on charges of "unlawful assembly," saw the charges against them dismissed by a court in Ghana on Thursday.
The 16 women and five men had been attending a paralegal training session conducted by Rightify Ghana, a human rights organization, in May. Police arrested the group for attending the training session, saying it promoted homosexuality, making it an unlawful gathering. They were released on bail by the country's High Court in June after more than three weeks of detention.
Addressing the latest development, Chief Superintendent Akologo Yakubu Ayamga said: "What this means is that they cannot be brought back to court on the same charges. So they have been freed.”
The lawyer representing the 21 accused, Julia Averty, was pleased with the outcome. "We welcome the decision and that has always been our argument from the beginning of this case," adding, "it has been a rough journey since May, but, thankfully, the law has spoken."
Gay sex is a criminal offense and punishable by up to three years imprisonment in the West African state. Those in the LGBTQ community are often victims of discrimination and abuse.
Ghanaian lawmakers are proposing harsher sentences and criminalizing LGBTQ advocacy in draft legislation that has made its way to parliament. The proposed bill has received global attention.
The Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill had its first reading in the House and, according to Rightify Ghana, has been referred to the Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee.
Various rights groups, including Rightify Ghana and Human Rights Watch, had been vocal in their condemnation of the arrests. For Ghana's president, Nana Akufo-Addo, the measures on so-called family values come at a sensitive time as he tries to entice African-Americans into moving to Ghana.
Various celebrities with Ghanaian heritage lent their support to Ghana's LGBTQ community. Idris Elba and Naomi Campbell were among those who signed an open letter in which they expressed their concern about the state of LGBTQ rights in Ghana.
kb/sms (AFP, Reuters)