Image copyright ABS Pictures Image caption Moussa M. Goma Kente says his love of religion makes him a paedophile
An American man has become the first person in Ghana to be prosecuted under the country’s “bigamy” law.
And his conviction highlights how far the far-right Trump-Pence Administration has gone in defending religion.
Since Donald Trump was sworn in as President, the rights of LGBTQ people have come under growing pressure.
In June 2017, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued California for protecting the rights of LGBTQ people, declaring that civil rights cannot outweigh the right of one person to practise their faith.
Paul Biel, a 37-year-old US citizen, denies that he deliberately tried to transgress Ghana’s bigamy law, which makes marriage between anyone of the same sex a crime.
“I did not follow the country’s law in that particular way, I believe my intentions were genuine,” said Mr Biel, in his first interview since his conviction in April.
He said he married the 36-year-old Ghanaian national in Nigeria in 2008, which is where the same bigamy law does not apply.
But five years ago, Mr Biel obtained a Ghanaian passport that had the date of his Nigerian marriage as September 23, 2009, and obtained an affidavit of the same court in which his relationship with his wife had been declared null and void.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Mr Biel and his lawyer say they will appeal
So he applied for an international divorce from his wife but was rejected.
In 2014, his wife complained to the authorities.
“She kept saying to me that I was still married to her and she was waiting for me to prove that I wasn’t,” said Mr Biel.
Mr Biel says he then began the formal process to marry his Ghanaian wife in his home state of Virginia in 2016.
Image copyright AFP Image caption At his trial, Mr Biel denied that he was intending to practise bigamy
But Ghana’s Attorney General Kwabena Ofori-Atta appealed against Mr Biel’s divorce application and argued it involved an attempt to perpetuate marriage within the country’s bigamy laws.
According to Mr Biel, he married his Ghanaian wife in Nigeria and later in Ghana by a simple post-marriage ceremony at a magistrate’s court.
Mr Biel insists that his wife left him after the court refused to recognise their marriage and he cannot face the legal consequences of an invalid marriage in the US.
He is now in prison awaiting an appeal of his conviction, which carries a prison sentence of up to four years.
This is the first time such a case has been prosecuted and the conviction could be changed as a result of this.
“It’s important to know that the decision has been appealed, so we’re always looking for a sound and complete and just appeal of the case,” said Mr Biel’s Ghanaian lawyer, Mtyumla Mosomo.
“It’s very important that Mr Biel is given justice and he is not discriminated against because he was not convicted of bigamy; but there should be no discrimination because he is a gay man.”
Source: Agence France Presse