British man imprisoned in Morocco for 'homosexual acts' describes month-long incarceration as 'hell on Earth'

Ray Cole said police had 'trashed' his apartment as they looked for 'evidence of an illicit relationship'

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The Independent Online

A British man arrested for being gay in Morocco has spoken of his near month-long incarceration in a prison cell as “hell on Earth”.

Ray Cole, 69, and his Moroccan lover Jamal Wald Nass were given four-month sentences after police said they had been involved in homosexual acts, but both were released early amid an international outcry.

Speaking to The Guardian, Mr Cole said Mr Nass, 22, who he had met on Facebook six months previously, was arrested as they went to visit a park in Marrakech.

“This guy came up and started to drag Jamal away – physically. He was a policeman in plain clothes. He took Jamal by the arm and said, ‘You’re coming with me’ in Arabic,” he said.

The officer then turned to Mr Cole. “He said, ‘How do you know him? What’s he got to do with you?’ I said, ‘He’s staying with me.’ “Then things got nasty. He pushed me away and warned, ‘Either you go or you’ll end up in the van with him.’ Jamal was really frightened, I couldn’t leave him. He said, ‘Go to the van, give your name and address and we’ll let your friend go’…. I was pushed into the van.”

Mr Cole said the police had “trashed” their apartment as they looked for “evidence of an illicit relationship”.

“Straight away [there was] the insinuation that we were homosexual,” he said. “They [the police] said, ‘We’ve got religion here. You’re filth and scum.’ They did their best to humiliate us.

“They went through everything – even my PayPal account. My personal life was examined forensically. It’s horrible. You just feel naked. They can do whatever they like. It’s a total police state.”

He said in prison there was “screaming and banging on the bars and doors” constantly.

“We were taken downstairs and put in holding cells. They were hell on Earth,” he said. “The stench from the toilet will live with me for ever… I was put in a cell that would later hold 50 or 60 people,” Mr Cole said.

“The police sergeant came in and announced [to everyone] that I was a tourist who’d come to Marrakech to prey on young men.”

He said he was “terrified” and feared none of his relatives knew where he was. “I found out since that my family thought I was dead,” he said.

However his fellow inmates tried to help calm him down and brought him food. “They were so kind I can’t tell you….” he said.

Mr Cole was officially released on health grounds on 7 October. Mr Nass was freed shortly afterwards, pending an appeal.

“If we’re not careful his life there is ruined,” Mr Cole said, adding that he planned to help Mr Nass get asylum in the UK.

“Meeting Jamal has been the best thing that’s happened to me in years – even though I ended up going to hell for him I’d go back to hell for him,” he said. “I’ve discussed the age difference; he says he doesn’t think about it and nor do I. The only problem is in other people’s minds.”