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09.10.2014 Africa

Moroccan jailed with gay British pensioner freed: rights group

Moroccon police patrol the streets of Casablanca on April 14, 2007.  By Abdelhak Senna (AFP/File)
OCT 9, 2014 AFRICA
Moroccon police patrol the streets of Casablanca on April 14, 2007. By Abdelhak Senna (AFP/File)

Rabat (AFP) - The companion of a British tourist freed from Moroccan jail this week after being arrested with him for "homosexual acts" has also been released from custody, a rights group said Thursday.

Jamal Wald Nass, a Moroccan national in his 20s, "was released on bail on Wednesday pending his appeal judgement, which will not occur for several weeks," Omar Arbib, an official for the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, told AFP.

"His British companion (Ray Cole) and he, two consenting adults, should never have been arrested. We insist on the respect of individual freedoms, in line with international human rights conventions," he added.

Cole, 70, and Nass were arrested at a bus stop in the tourist city of Marrakech on September 18 after allegedly having made "a gesture of a sexual nature" and were later sentenced to four months in prison.

Nass denied having sexual relations with the pensioner, "but some images were found on their mobile phones," according to Arbib.

Cole's family appealed against the conviction and led an online campaign for his release that sought the support of actors Stephen Fry and Simon Pegg and entrepreneur Alan Sugar.

Homosexuality in Morocco is punishable by up to three years in jail. In July, Human Rights Watch asked the kingdom "to stop prosecuting people for homosexuality".

The prosecution of foreign nationals on such charges is rare, but Britain's foreign ministry advises gay travellers to be aware of the risk.

Close to half a million Britons visit Morocco every year.