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FIJIíS GAY SEX LAWS UNDER INTERNATIONAL SCRUTINY
The arrest of an Australian man an a Fijian man for having private consensual sex is putting the laws to the test and provoking the Prime Minister to call homosexuality a Sin
ANZAPI (Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands)
April 12th 2005
Two men jailed last week for consenting private adult gay sex have been released from jail following a successful appeal before the Fiji High Court this afternoon.
The two men, Thomas McCoskar 55, an Australian, and Dhirendra Nadan, 23, have been bailed to re-appear on April 28th at which time a date for appeal will be set.
Speaking from Suva, Barrister Mr. Iqbal Khan, said that his clients were bailed by a single High Court judge on the basis that the prospect of an acquittal is good and that the laws under which the two men were gaoled have been condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee in a 1994 case about similar laws which then prevailed in the Australian state of Tasmania.
When the two men were first charged they represented themselves, and only made contact with Mr Khan while the defence lawyer was in jail visiting other prisoners.
According to Mr Khan the appeal hearing will involve representatives of both the Fiji Human Rights Commission and the Fiji Attorney General.
"We expect the appeal hearing to resolve not only the status of Mr. McCoskar and Mr. Nadan, but also the status of the laws under which they were arrested", Mr Khan said.
For more information contact Rodney Croome of the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group at +61 0409 010 668.
UPDATE April 13th 2005
In response to growing international pressure, Australiaís Herald Sun reports that Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has called homosexuality a sin:
FIJI Prime Minister has rejected international pressure to make gay sex legal in the conservative Christian nation, saying homosexuality is a sin.
Human rights groups and the Australian Greens have criticised Fiji's sodomy law after an Australian tourist and a Fiji man were given two-year jail sentences last week for having sex.
But Mr Qarase said the Bible clearly stated that homosexuality was a sin, and Fiji's law reflected that.
Local and international critics should respect Fiji's law and not interfere in the country's legal process, he told a radio station.
People should realise the convicted pair had also been making pornography, he said.
Thomas Maxwell McCoskar, 55, and Dhirendra Nadan, 23, were freed on bail yesterday after appealing against their convictions in a Fijian high court.
Lawyers for the pair argue that Fiji's constitution, which outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation, overrides the Pacific nation's penal code.
Homosexual acts carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in Fiji, but such sentences have been enforced only rarely.
Protests against the convictions have been held in Fiji and Australia.
"The Greens are calling on the Australian Government to convey this concern to the Fijian Government and send a clear message that Australia considers discrimination on the grounds of sexuality as inappropriate as racism," Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle said.
© Herald and Weekly Times