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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:43 pm 
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2 men in Indonesia's Aceh province face caning for gay sex
8 April 2017

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) -- Two men in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province each face up to 100 strokes of the cane after neighbors reported them to Islamic religious police for having gay sex.

Marzuki, the Shariah police's chief investigator, said Saturday that if found guilty, the men will be the first to be caned for gay sex under a new code implemented two years ago.

Residents in a neighborhood of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, reported the men, aged 23 and 20, to police on March 29, said Marzuki, who goes by a single name.

He said the men had "confessed" to being a gay couple and that this was supported by video footage taken by a resident that has been circulating online. It shows one of the men naked and visibly distressed as he apparently calls for help on his cellphone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practice Shariah law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a yearslong war with separatists.

A Shariah code implemented two years ago allows up to 100 lashes for morality offenses including gay sex. Caning is also a punishment for adultery, gambling, drinking alcohol, women who wear tight clothes and men who skip Friday prayers.

Marzuki said residents in Banda Aceh's Rukoh neighborhood were suspicious of the two men because they often seemed to be intimate, and had set out to catch them having sex.

"Based on our investigation, testimony of witnesses and evidence, we can prove that they violated Islamic Shariah law and we can take them to court," Marzuki said.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but a judicial review being considered by the Constitutional Court is seeking to criminalize sex outside marriage and sex between people of the same gender.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 11:35 pm 
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Chechen gays survive torture, flee to Moscow safe houses
By NATALIYA VASILYEVA and ALEXANDER ROSLYAKOV
2 May 2017

MOSCOW (AP) -- Anzor was lying on a dirty floor as a man in army boots jumped on his back. His agony worsened when his captors started torturing him with electric shocks.

"It's a feeling like they are breaking every bone of every joint in your body at the same time," he said.

Anzor is a gay man from Chechnya, the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia where dozens of men suspected of being gay were reportedly detained and tortured, and at least three of them were allegedly killed. After his ordeal, Anzor fled Chechnya and is now in hiding in Moscow, fearing not only for his own life but for the safety of his relatives. He spoke with the Associated Press on the condition of using only his first name.

Antipathy to homosexuality in Russia is widespread. Gay rights activists' requests to hold rallies are routinely rejected by officials and any rallies that do take place are often attacked by anti-gay thugs. But "this anti-gay purge, sanctioned by top local authorities, is unprecedented," said Tanya Lokshina, the Russia program coordinator for Human Rights Watch.

Another gay man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told the AP that he was also arrested in Chechnya and held with dozens of others. "We were tortured every day. Beside beatings, we were beaten several times a day with polypropylene tubes. We were tortured with electricity," he said. "For 20-30 seconds they spin the handle, you feel the electricity, then you fall down, they stop it, and then immediately you come back to consciousness and you are ready again for a new discharge," he said. "And it goes on five, six, seven times."

The abuse was first reported in April by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which said that about 100 men suspected of being gay were rounded up and tortured, and that at least three were killed. Western governments and rights groups have urged Russian authorities to investigate.

Chechen officials vehemently deny not only the reported torture of gays, but sometimes their very existence. "There are no homosexuals in Chechnya. You cannot detain and persecute those who do not exist," Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, told the Interfax news agency.

Homosexuality is a taboo in conservative Chechnya, and the gay community there was used to leading a double life - marrying, having children and hiding their sexuality from even their closest family members. The only time a gay man in Chechnya could be himself is when he met with another gay person, typically through social media, Anzor said. "The rest of the time we are pretending," he said.

Anzor, who talked to the AP at a safe house provided by LGBT activists, fears for the lives of his family members who will become pariahs in the patriarchal Chechen society if his identity is revealed. "Sometimes families turn away from such people, some families get rid of such people," he said of gays, a word he is visibly uncomfortable using. "I'm scared for my family, my sisters and brothers. I don't want them to suffer for me."

Anzor, in his 40s, said the ordeal began when police stopped the car in which he was riding with friends in the town of Argun. They were taken to a police station after officers found a sedative pill on one friend. Small details that Anzor didn't want to make public led the police to believe that he and one of his friends were gay, he said. They were brutally beaten in front of the police station chief and taken to a shed. Anzor spent 10 days there.

He said the shed had dozens of men who were beaten and abused by camouflaged men. In the first few days, the beatings were so frequent that he stopped feeling any pain, Anzor said, overcome at the memory. Inmates were made to attach the clamps of electric wires to their toes and fingers - and the captors would then turn on the power.

Then the torture stopped. Several days later Anzor was taken outside and told that he was free to go - without any explanation. He thought about going to a neighboring region and reporting his bruises and injuries at the hospital there, but got scared. "I thought if I would go there, they would be people like that there, too," he said, laughing nervously.

The other gay man who spoke to the AP said that his ordeal began when police arrested him in a crowded place, because his number was found in the phone of another gay man arrested earlier. He said that he believed his captors, dressed in camouflage, were abusing them one by one in a bid to find more gays. "They were beating information out of us," he said.

The man, in his 30s, said that when the abusers lost interest in one person, the torture would stop. He was eventually freed, and like Anzor, fled Chechnya and sought shelter through LGBT activists in Moscow.

Human rights groups have previously documented torture and extrajudicial killings perpetrated by Kadyrov's security forces against opponents and Salafi Muslims. Lokshina said the methods used against gay men echo these abuses - it's "their standard toolbox," she said.

Putin last month met with Kadyrov in the Kremlin and the Chechen leader dismissed the reports. "The so-called good people write that in our republic - I'm even ashamed to say it - people get arrested and killed," he said. Putin apparently didn't press him further.

"I'm in absolute shock. We have never seen anything like this," said Tatyana Vinnichenko, head of the Russian LGBT Network, which is aiding about 40 gay men who have fled Chechnya in recent weeks. Vinnichenko's phones ring every few minutes as she coordinates efforts with other activists on hospital treatment, plane tickets and housing arrangements. Two of the men have already left Russia for another country which is visa-free for Russians, and two more have just received visas and should be leaving for Europe soon.

LGBT activists have been meeting with foreign diplomats, pleading that granting a visa to gay survivors of torture could be a matter of saving their lives. Vinnichenko said, with dismay, that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been "unwilling to engage in a dialogue on visas for the torture victims."

In Washington, the U.S. State Department told the AP that it was "unable to discuss individual cases" since visa records are confidential but added that it "categorically condemns the persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation."

After he was released, Anzor stayed in Chechnya to tend to his ailing mother, but eventually felt compelled to leave. "My friends, people I have socialized with were all rounded up. If they caught me again, I know for sure I would not have made it out of there alive," he said.

He told his family he was going away on business when he left for Moscow in early March and he hasn't been back since. He clings to the hope that he will be able to go home to see his mother once again - and scoffs at the Kremlin meeting between Kadyrov and Putin. "I think Putin knows about it, he knows it even better than me - he is the president of Russia after all," he says. "I don't know why he allows all of this to happen."

Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.
Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 1:56 pm 
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'Am I going to die?' Gay man testifies at church trial
By MITCH WEISS and HOLBROOK MOHR
June 1, 2017

RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina man thought he was "going to die" when members of his evangelical church beat and choked him for two hours to expel his "homosexual demons," he testified Thursday.

Matthew Fenner was the first person to take the stand in the assault and kidnapping trial of Brooke Covington, a 58-year-old minister at Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina. Fenner, 23, said Covington was the leader in a 2013 beating involving numerous congregants. He said Covington pointed out his sexual orientation, saying, "God said there is something wrong in your life."

Fenner said he had cancer as a child and had a biopsy one week before he was assaulted. "I'm frail and in my mind, I'm thinking, 'is my neck going to break, am I going to die?'" Fenner said.

Covington faces up to two years in prison if convicted. She is the first of five church members to face trial in the case. Each defendant will be tried separately. Prosecutor Garland Byers said during opening statements that Covington "directed and participated in" the assault.

Fenner has said he was leaving a Sunday night prayer service Jan. 27, 2013, when nearly two dozen people surrounded him in the sanctuary. He said they slapped, punched, choked and blasted him - a church practice that involves intense screaming - for two hours as they tried to expel his "homosexual demons."

Covington's lawyer, David Teddy, tried to poke holes in Fenner's testimony, noting that Fenner praised the church in his high school graduation speech and visited a Word of Faith Fellowship church in Brazil. "Before I got to Word of Faith, my life was filled with sin," Teddy said, quoting from the transcript of one of those speeches. Teddy also said Fenner never told anyone to stop hitting him. "When you've been emotionally abused, you cannot say stop," Fenner said. Complaining would have made the punishment worse, Fenner said.

During opening statements, Teddy said the congregation gave Fenner routine prayer that lasted no longer than 15 to 20 minutes. When the prayer was over, Fenner "hugged everybody and left the church," Teddy said.

As part of an ongoing, two-year investigation into abuse of Word of Faith Fellowship congregants by church leaders, the Associated Press interviewed four former church members who say they witnessed Fenner being attacked. Based on interviews with 43 former members, documents and secretly made recordings, the AP reported in February that Word of Faith Fellowship congregants were regularly punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls in a violent form of deliverance meant to "purify" sinners by beating out devils.

The church has scores of strict rules to control congregants' lives, including whether they can marry or have children. Failure to comply often triggers a humiliating rebuke from the pulpit or, worse, physical punishment, according to numerous former members interviewed by AP. Members can't watch television, go to the movies, read newspapers or eat in restaurants that play music or serve alcohol. If church leaders believe a congregant has sexual or dirty thoughts, they can be accused of being "unclean" and be punished, the former members said.

Fenner said he joined the sect with his mother and brother in 2010. He fled after he said he was attacked.

The defense had filed requests to move the trial out of Rutherford County, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains midway between Charlotte and Asheville, due to years of negative publicity about the church's practices. As an alternative, the defense asked to have a jury brought in from another area. Superior Court Judge Gary Gavenus denied those requests.

The AP's investigation also revealed that congregants were ordered by church leaders to lie to authorities investigating reports of abuse and that two assistant district attorneys and a veteran social worker were among those who coached congregants and their children on what to say to investigators. After the AP report, the prosecutors, including one who is a son-in-law of a church founder, left their jobs, and the social worker resigned.

The sect was founded in 1979 by Jane Whaley, a former math teacher, and her husband, Sam, a former used car salesman. Under Jane Whaley's leadership, Word of Faith Fellowship grew from a handful of followers to a 750-member congregation in North Carolina, and another nearly 2,000 members in churches in Brazil and Ghana. It also has affiliations in other countries.

Mohr reported from Jackson, Mississippi.
Source: AP

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:38 am 
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Russian TV channel offers to buy one-way plane tickets for gay people
By Ashitha Nagesh
2 July 2017

A homophobic TV channel in Russia is offering to buy one-way plane tickets for gay people who say they want to emigrate.

In a video posted on social media this week, the religious channel Tsargrad TV asked gay people to compete for the plane ticket abroad. The channel regularly uses homophobic slurs and other offensive terms when talking about LGBT people.

‘Just recently California – the most liberal state in the USA, by the way – proposed to facilitating the granting of green cards to Russian perverts,’ TV host Andrei Afanasyev said. ‘The staff of Tsargrad TV support this initiative. Moreover, we are ready to pay for a one-way ticket to anyone who plans to emigrate in complete earnest, and can provide a medical certificate proving that they are sodomites or have other forms of perversion. We really want you to move there, where you can openly submit to your sins.’

Afanasyev then insisted that he wasn’t trolling viewers, and that it just ‘wants to do good’.

A few people have already expressed their interest in the offer. ‘It looks like my winning ticket to get out of this frigging country,’ one person said. ‘What should I submit?’ Many, many others called the channel’s staff ‘savages’ and pledged to block it from social media.

But a Russian sexologist, speaking to lifestyle website Afisha Daily, did point out that people wouldn’t be able to get a ‘medical certificate’ as proof because being gay isn’t a disease.

Tsargrad is a niche Christian Orthodox channel, but it boasts around a quarter of the Russian population as its audience.

Source: Metro UK

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:07 pm 
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Greek clerics ring church bells to protest gender rights law
By DEMETRIS NELLAS
15 October 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Church bells have rung "in mourning" across a western Greek diocese to protest the passing of a law making it easier for people to officially change their gender.

Under the guidance of Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta, a fiery conservative Orthodox bishop, clerics in his diocese decided that starting Sunday church bells are to ring every day, through Saturday, at noon for three minutes. They also called for the repeal of the "anti-Christian and anti-Greek" law. "It is an outrageous inspiration for someone to change his gender in a few minutes, with a simple declaration, so contrary to what God has gifted people with ... whoever has 'gender dysphoria' is mentally ill," says a statement adopted by the Kalavryta diocese's clerics Saturday.

The statement, which also condemns homosexuality as a "deadly sin" and rails in general against "every kind of bestial deviation," also expressed worries that legislation allowing adoption by same-sex couples will be next. "We do not hate the sinner, but the sin," the statement adds. The clerics also said that they will raise protest banners in the city of Aigion, the largest in the diocese.

The law, passed with 171 votes in favor in the 300-member parliament last week, allows Greeks over the age of 15 to change the gender listed on their identity cards and other official documents following a simplified procedure in court. Until now, they had to prove they had undergone sex-change surgery and psychiatric assessment.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:29 pm 
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UK Anglicans issue advice to counter anti-LGBT bullying
13 November 2017

LONDON (AP) -- The Church of England has issued new guidance to counter anti-LGBT bullying at its schools, telling teachers that children should be permitted to wear tutus, tiaras or superhero capes "without judgment or derision."

The church says children should be "afforded freedom from the expectation of permanence" and able to experiment with "many cloaks of identity" without gender stereotypes or being labelled. The church first issued guidance for discouraging anti-gay bullying at its 4,700 schools three years ago. The updates are cover bullying of children perceived to be transgender or bisexual.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote in a forward to the document that it helps schools offer "the Christian message of love, joy and the celebration of our humanity without exception or exclusion." Church of England schools enroll 1 million students.

Source: AP

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