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Witch hunt

Nigerian ministry denies threat to ‘gay’ Swiss diplomat

Nigeria’s foreign minister has condemned a newspaper article that quotes an official threatening the Swiss ambassador for alleged homosexuality. The Swiss foreign minister said the affair will not impact future diplomatic assignments.

Eric Mayoraz, Switzerland’s ambassador to Nigeria, was accused of being homosexual in a Nigerian newspaper last week. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria and severely punishable with prison terms or, in some regions, even death. The article, in the “Daily Trust” newspaper, included a comment from a Nigerian foreign ministry spokesperson quoted as saying that Mayoraz “would be made to feel the full wrath of the law” if found to be homosexual.

Mayoraz has not publicly stated that he is gay. When contacted by the Swiss newspaper 20 Minutes last week, he said he had no comment on the “lamentable affair”.

On Tuesday, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama issued a denial of the threats made in the newspaper article, expressing shock and dismay at the “slanderous article”. He said no-one in his department had known of the affair, nor had they been asked to comment. Onyeama also said he would open an investigation and punish any wrongdoing in the matter.

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter told Swiss public television, SRF, on Tuesday that diplomats’ sexual orientation would not play a role in which posts they are assigned to, even if they land in countries where homosexuality is illegal.

“Our fundamental values must be respected,” he said. “What counts is that an ambassador can represent our country’s interests in the best possible way.”

The Swiss foreign ministry also released a statement thanking the Nigerian government for its specific comments on the matter and praising Mayoraz for his “excellent work”.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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