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Page last updated at 18:02 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Kenya 'gay wedding' suspects freed

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Kenyan police have released five people arrested for planning a "gay wedding" north of Mombasa, saying there was no evidence to prosecute them.

But police spokesman Martha Mutegi told the BBC the men had been advised to leave the area for their own safety and to avoid angering the local community.

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

A BBC reporter in Mombasa says police began a crackdown on the gay community last week following anti-gay protests.

The rallies were apparently sparked by US President Barack Obama's condemnation of planned anti-gay legislation in neighbouring Uganda.

The Uganda bill calls for long jail terms or the death penalty for some gay people.

Kenyan gay rights activists have protested about rising violence against homosexuals, saying public attitudes are condoned by the authorities.

The five men were arrested on Friday after local officials said they heard about a wedding due to happen in a hotel in Mtwapa, just outside Mombasa.

A district officer said two of the men had been found with wedding rings.

The BBC's Odhiambo Joseph says the day before two men fled from Kilisi, 60km (37 miles) north of Mombasa, after local chiefs believed they planned to get married at seaside villa.

Our reporter says such unions are not legally binding, but gay couples often make a public declaration of their vows before friends and family.

Ms Mutegi said another man - handed over to police in Mtwapa on Saturday by members of the public on suspicion of being gay - has also been released.



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SEE ALSO
Police arrest five 'gay' Kenyans
12 Feb 10 |  Africa
Kenya chiefs block 'gay wedding'
11 Feb 10 |  Africa
Malawi gays 'must be more open'
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04 Jan 10 |  Africa

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