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Gay Russian protester detained at Olympic relay

A gay Russian protester was detained Jan. 18 for unfurling a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay as it passed through his hometown of Voronezh, 560 miles north of Sochi, where the games will begin Feb. 7.

Photos uploaded by his friends show Pavel Lebedev pulling out the flag and then being detained by Olympic security personnel, who wrestled him to the snow as they waited for police to arrive. Lebedev, reached by phone, said he was still in the police station and undergoing questioning.

“Hosting the Games here contradicts the basic principles of the Olympics, which is to cultivate tolerance,” he said, citing growing homophobia in Russia as the main reason for his protest.

A ban on propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” that was signed by President Vladimir Putin into law in June has provoked widespread international outrage from critics who believe the legislation discriminates against gays.

In the wake of that backlash, Russian authorities have put limits on the right to protest during the Sochi Olympics, which will run until Feb. 23. A presidential decree initially banned all rallies in Sochi from Jan. 7-March 21, but Putin later rescinded the ban to allow demonstrations at venues determined by the Interior Ministry.

Arrests spreading under Nigeria antigay law

Arrests have spread across Nigeria as dozens more people perceived to be gay have been rounded up and questioned, activists said Jan. 17, describing another wave of police attention unleashed by a wide-ranging new antigay law.

In recent days, more than 30 people have been arrested, with an increasing number coming from the West African country’s Christian southern states. Until Goodluck Jonathan signed the law, prosecution of gay people had largely been centered on the predominantly Muslim north, where gays have long been punished under Shariah law.

“The arrests are all over. It’s no longer just in the north,” said Ifeanyi Kelly Orazulike, executive director of the Nigeria-based International Center for Advocacy on Right to Health. “Police are not telling us what the charges are, and people are scared.”

He said that at this point, some of those arrested may have been released, but not without being forced to give names of others who may eventually be implicated.

Nigeria’s more-than 160-million people are almost equally divided between the north and mainly Christian south, with a widespread condemnation of homosexuality throughout the country. Gay people can get lynched and beaten to death, or legally executed by stoning for the offense under the Islamic Shariah law that prevails in nine of its 36 states.

Sodomy was already illegal, but the bill signed into law Jan. 7 bans all gay associations and gay marriage, with penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment for marriage. Arrests had been made before, but not at this magnitude, Orazulike said.

“It’s obviously the law,” he said. “People want to leave and you don’t blame them. They are asking us about the exit choices.”

Orazulike made clear that his organization isn’t in a position to help them flee, but that they can provide advice and counseling.

In the first conviction of a gay man since the law was signed, Mubarak Ibrahim was found guilty of sodomy and whipped 20 times Jan. 16 in a northern Nigerian Shariah court. He was among 12 men, 11 Muslims and one Christian, who have been arrested by police since Christmas for belonging to a gay club.

The speed of the arrests is worrying, said Andre Banks of All Out, a global gay-rights organization.

“The key question is who is calling for these arrests, and who, if anybody, has the ability to stop them,’’ Banks said. “Rarely do you see a bill executed with such efficiency.”

The law has brought widespread condemnation from abroad, including the United States, Britain, Canada, the European Union and the United Nations. Banks called on the international community to intervene and for world leaders to put pressure on Nigeria.

Brazil: Gay teen murdered by skinheads

A gay teenager was tortured and murdered by a gang of skinheads near the stadium that will host the World Cup opening ceremony this summer.

Kaique Batista dos Santos, 16, had all his teeth pulled out with pliers and was battered to death in a murder that has shocked LGBT activists in Brazil.

The victim’s sister, Tayna, said, “These thugs enjoy beating and torturing with their bare hands and they are pleased to take the lives of homosexuals.”

Kaique had attended a party in a gay nightclub before he disappeared. His wallet and mobile phone were stolen.

Party organizer Cristiano Pacheco, 32, said the incident was “utterly horrific.”

“He was a quiet kid, everyone loved him. Plucking teeth, iron bars — how can people do that?” he said. “It is very upsetting for us to lose someone so dear in our family. Kaique was very young and hardly knew what life was.”

The 16-year-old’s body was found about a mile away from the Sao Paulo stadium. The venue is hosting the opening ceremony of the World Cup on June 12.

A vigil will take place in memory of the fallen teenager in Sao Paulo on Jan. 24.

The Department of Public Safety said it would not comment on the torture because the report is “confidential.”

— compiled by Larry Nichols

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