Family demand release of gay British pensioner held in Morocco

Family demand release of gay British pensioner held in Morocco

LONDON - A British man on Monday urged Moroccan authorities to release his 70-year-old father, who he claims is being held in "appalling" conditions in a Marrakesh prison after being convicted of homosexuality.

Britain's foreign ministry confirmed that one of its citizens had been detained in Morocco, and that it was providing consular assistance.

Adrian Cole said his father, Ray, had been on holiday when he was approached by police while standing at a bus stop last month.

"They've gone through his phone and found photographs that they're using as evidence for a homosexual act," he said "The trial was a complete farce." According to Cole, the pensioner, from Deal on the southeast coast of England, is being made to sleep on a concrete floor in an overcrowded cell populated with paedophiles and murderers.

"He's had a couple of minor strokes before and has a minor heart condition. He has also been suffering with depression, which the court didn't take into account," added Cole.

"Why they haven't just deported him no-one seems to be able to be able to explain." The prisoner's family plan to appeal against the conviction, made last Thursday, and are leading an online campaign that is seeking the support of actors Stephen Fry and Simon Pegg and entrepreneur Alan Sugar.

Cole was detained on September 18 while visiting Moroccan companion Jam Wald Nass. Both were jailed for four months.

Charlie Elphicke, the lawmaker for Cole's area, called on Britons to boycott Morocco as a holiday destination.

"Deeply concerned for my constituent Ray Cole who has been jailed in Morocco and doing all I can to get him back to UK," he later tweeted.

The website of Britain's Foreign Office warns homosexual travellers about the risks visiting the north African country.

"Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Morocco," it says.

"Sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law. It is not uncommon for hotels to ask couples to show evidence of marriage at the time of check-in, and if such evidence is not available, to insist on separate rooms." Homosexuality carries a maximum sentence of three years in Morocco.

Gillian Edwards from Abta, Britain's travel trade association for tour operators and travel agents, said it was "very unusual" for visitors to Morocco to be convicted of homosexuality.

"It is very important for gay travellers to research their destination before they go," she told Sky News television, warning others to be discrete and consider booking separate beds in hotels.

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