A Ghanian court has dismissed a cause charging 21 protesters for assembling at a pro-LGBTQ+ event due to insufficient evidence.
In May, 16 women and five men were arrested, in the city Ho, for “participating” in an LGBTQ+ friendly conference.
Chief Superintendent of Police Yakubu Ayamga, a police prosecutor, said there was not enough evidence to go ahead with prosecution.
“What this means is that they cannot be brought back to court on the same charges. So they have been freed,” Ayamga told Reuters.
“The court dismissed the case today based on the opinion (of the attorney general) and the 21 people were acquitted,” he told Africa News.
Julia Ayertey, the attorney for the 21 arrestees, confirmed the ruling while speaking to the African news outlet.
“We welcome the decision, which has always been our line from the beginning of this case,” she said.
Rightify Ghana, a human rights organization in Ghana, took to Twitter to celebrate the news and elaborate on the unfolding case.
“A Ho Circuit Court has dismissed the case against the 21 human rights defenders and participants of a paralegal training, who were arrested on May 20 for “unlawful assembly” and detained for 22 days by the police, after multiple bails were turned down,” Rightify Ghana posted.
The account added: “According to the prosecutors, the Attorney General has said that they do not have enough evidence to prosecute the 21 persons. Consequently, the judge dismissed the case against them
“More importantly, the risk of them being prosecuted by Ghana’s far-reaching anti-LGBTQ bill, if passed, is no more. They are now free to live and continue with their lives. Most of them have lost homes, employment, friends and families as a result of this case.”
Update on #ReleaseThe21
A Ho Circuit Court has dismissed the case against the 21 human rights defenders and participants of a paralegal training, who were arrested on May 20 for "unlawful assembly" and detained for 22 days by the police, after multiple bails were turned down. pic.twitter.com/2ZJSK7A6Z3
— Rightify Ghana (@RightifyGhana) August 5, 2021
On May 21, authorities arrested “suspects” for unlawful assembly at a conference in the West African nation.
“The command is cautioning the public, particularly parents, to be wary of activities of persons involved in this misbehaviour and report them to the police,” the Ghana Police Service said in a statement.
LGBTQ people and activists have been increasingly targeted by police since Jan. 31, Bloomberg reports.
In late January, Ghana authorities shut down a fundraiser for a gay community centre in the capital city of Accra.
Earlier this year, police shut down the LGBT+ Rights Ghana’s community space following political petitions for the closure of Ghana’s first LGBTQ+ centre.
The facility, which is run by the local charity LGBT+ Rights Ghana, was set up to offer a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals.
In response to the intolerance expressed by politicians and ministers, The European Union Delegation to Ghana shared a message of unity and support for the Ghanaian LGBTQ+ community.
The post read: “A couple of weeks ago the EU in Ghana participated in the opening of the new community space of the LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana.
Equality, tolerance and respect for each other are core values of the EU. The EU supports civil society organisations promoting.”
However, on Tuesday (February 24), the LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana movement revealed that members of the cause had been targeted by police and their house was raided. Ghana’s first LGBTQ+ office was forced to close.
LGBT+ people face widespread persecution in the West African nation where gay sex is punishable with up to three years imprisonment.
In 2018, The Human Rights Watch issued a report that documented violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in Ghana.
The report uncovered that homosexuality is banned under the Criminal Offences Act, however, the laws are believed to be a result of colonial legacy and rarely enforced.