WORLD BRIEFS

Posted on 27 Apr 2006 at 9:30pm
By Rex Wockner

Arrests made in St. Maartens attack against U.S. journalists


Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

Two men were arrested last week in St, Maartens in connection with a tire iron attack on two gay tourists from New York, prosecutors said Wednesday, after refusing for two days to confirm or deny local media reports to that effect.

One of the two arrested men, neither of whom was identified, was still in detention, and more arrests were on the way, said St. Maarten Chief Prosecutor Taco Stein.

“This guy is talking,” Stein said. “And according to the information he’s giving us, we expect to arrest at least three other men.”

The second man was released for lack of evidence, Stein added. Stein confirmed local media reports that the arrests were made at Bamboo Bernie’s, the popular nightspot where journalists Richard Jefferson, 51, and Ryan Smith, 25, were attacked April 6.

Smith and Jefferson, a senior broadcast producer for CBS’ national evening news, were airlifted for medical treatment to Miami. Jefferson, who has been released, said Smith was being treated for brain damage.

Jefferson said the three assailants had yelled anti-gay slurs at his friends earlier that evening, and he faulted local authorities for not speaking to witnesses the night of the crime.

“The people who harmed us are well-known punks,” he told reporters last week. “People in the community know who these guys are. They are not talking to the police. The entire island is watching something bad happening.”

St. Maarten is a popular Caribbean tourist destination shared by France and the Netherlands.

Belgian parliament approves gay adoption rights bill

The Belgian parliament has narrowly approved a bill to grant same-sex couples equal rights in adoption.

Senators backed the proposal on April 20 by a vote of 34 to 33 with two abstentions. The House had earlier voted 77-62 in favor of the bill.

With the adoption of the bill, Belgium becomes the fourth European Union member state to allow same-sex couples equal rights in adoption, after Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden. Up to now, only heterosexual couples or single people were granted adoption rights.

“It is a memorable day for the children of gays. Finally they earn the right of a worthy legal link with both their parents,” said Mieke Stessens of the Belgian Federation of Gays.

BBC report: Murders of gays upin Iraq since U.S. invasion

Iraq has seen an increase in homophobic killings since the U.S. invasion, the BBC reported on April 17.

Frightened gay people told the network the murders are connected to the growing influence of anti-gay religious figures and the increasing lawlessness of militias.

Seyed Kashmiri, a spokesman for Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, suggested some of the killings are appropriate.
“Homosexuals and lesbians are not killed for practicing their inclinations for the first time,” he said.

“There are certain conditions drawn out by jurists before this punishment can be implemented, which is perhaps similar to the punishment meted out by other heavenly religions.”

Deputy Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal told the BBC that “vigilante action” is not condoned. “We encourage the victims to inform the authorities if they are subjected to any attacks,” he said.

However, the Interior Ministry is run by members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite party, and gays say the council’s Badr Brigades militia is among those attacking them.

“Saddam was a tyrant, but at least we had more freedom then,” one Iraqi gay man told the network. “Nowadays, gay men are just killed for no reason.”

Dutch grant gay Iranian immigrants a reprieve from deportation order

Under pressure from Parliament and activists, the Netherlands’ immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, has extended a moratorium on expulsion of gay Iranian asylum-seekers for an additional six months.

Despite many reports of anti-gay abuses by Iranian officials, Verdonk is not convinced Iranian gays face serious persecution in their homeland.
During the moratorium, the Foreign Ministry will launch a new effort to assess Iran’s gay climate. The deportation ban was implemented last year after reports of executions in Iran for homosexual conduct.

The Etemad newspaper reported that two men were sentenced to death by the Tehran Criminal Court after the wife of one of them found a video of the two having sex. The Tehran daily Kayhan covered the hanging of two men Mokhtar N., 24, and Ali A., 25 in Shahid Bahonar Square in the town of Gorgan for what it said was the crime of sodomy (lavat).

“Men and women suspected of homosexual conduct in Iran face the threat of execution,” affirmed Scott Long of Human Rights Watch’s gay-rights program. “We have documented brutal floggings imposed by courts as punishment, and torture and ill-treatment, including sexual abuse, in police custody.”

Iran’s criminal code, states that sexual intercourse between men “is punishable by death.” Non-penetrative sex between men with 100 lashes, and with death on the fourth conviction.

Sexual intercourse between women is punishable with 100 lashes, and with death if the offense is repeated three times.

Canadian court OKs newspaper ad quoting anti-gay scripture

The highest court in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan ruled on April 15 that Regina resident Hugh Owens did not violate the provincial Human Rights Code when he placed an ad in Saskatoon’s StarPhoenix newspaper quoting anti-gay Bible passages and depicting two stick-figure men holding hands underneath the international “no” symbol.

A human-rights board of inquiry and the Queen’s Bench court had previously found Owens guilty of offending gays’ dignity and exposing them to hatred and ridicule. But the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned the rulings even though the ad was, according to the court, “bluntly presented and doubtlessly upsetting to many.”

The complaint against Owens was filed by gay activist Gens Hellquist, said he is disappointed that the Court of Appeals seems to be saying “that if you wrap up hatred and intolerance in religious dogma you can get away with it.”

Ottawa gay Pride committee bankrupt, needs $25,000 for festival
The gay pride committee in the Canadian capital of Ottawa is “effectively bankrupt,” the Ottawa Citizen reported on April 19.

Ottawa-Gatineau Pride is $162,700 in debt and needs an infusion of $25,000 from the city government to stay afloat and stage this year’s parade and festival, the committee said.

“If we don’t have a festival this year, then there’s no guarantee we can pay back the creditors,” committee member Tamara Stammis told the paper.

European MPs denounce proposed anti-gay legislation in Nigeria

More than 60 members of the European Parliament representing all major parties called on Nigeria’s government April 19 to withdraw legislation that will criminalize gay relationships and same-sex marriage and ban gay organizations and activism.

The measure calls for five years’ imprisonment for anyone who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations.” It also criminalizes public displays of a “same-sex amorous relationship” and bans gay adoption.

“The proposed law … is an intolerable breach of international law,” said Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas of England. “It will breach the freedom of expression, assembly, association and conscience protected by U.N. and African Union human rights treaties.”

The U.S. State Department also has denounced the bill, saying it “would restrict or prohibit citizens from assembling, organizing, holding events or rallies, and participating in ceremonies of religious union, based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 28, 2006.

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