- The two Spanish tourists arrested on Friday in The Gambia, accused of having made "dishonest propositions" to engage into homosexual relationships, yesterday were released without charges and are preparing their return to Spain.
According to confirmed sources from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the release of two Spaniards - 56 and 54 years old - came hours after several senior members of the Ministry got in contact with their Gambian counterparts.
However, the two Spaniards in The Gambia are still said to be "in a dangerous situation". The same sources indicated that the two Spanish tourists yesterday urgently had left the capital of Gambia, Banjul, moving on to neighbouring Senegal by road instead of waiting for a flight. Today, they are trying to catch a direct flight from Senegal to Spain.
The two Spaniards were arrested on Friday in Kotu, 10 kilometres from Banjul. The tourists were accused of having asked local taxi drivers to led them to places frequented by homosexuals. The drivers at first agreed to the request of the Spaniards, but later on informed the police who later arrested them at a tourist resort.
Last month, the President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, ordered gays and lesbians to leave the country within 24 hours before he would "cut off the head" of any homosexual caught in the country. Mr Jammeh also threatened to legislate "more stringent laws that Iran" regarding homosexuality.
President Jammeh further warned owners of hotels and accommodation centres not to give shelter to homosexuals on the grounds that homosexuality should not be tolerated in a country of "believers and civilized people." He added government would "not hesitate to close down any hotel or lodge that accommodates homosexuals."
Meanwhile, there are concerns over the possible economic consequences of the arrest and detention of homosexuals in the small and impoverished West African country, whose tourist business is one of the most expanding industries. Tourism now contributes a great part to the national economy, as well as the main source of foreign exchange.
President Jammeh's verbal and physical attacks on homosexuals have received massive press coverage is the countries of origin of most tourists. In particular media and blogs directed at homosexuals have started warning against travelling to The Gambia, with many calling for a general tourism boycott of the small dictatorship.
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