Deal: Tourist Sentenced 'For Being Gay'

A British holidaymaker from Kent has been jailed in Morocco for being gay, according to his family.

Ray Cole, from Deal in Kent, was arrested by police in the Muslim country for "homosexual acts'' and was last week imprisoned for four months, his son said.

The family of the 70-year-old, who came out as gay a few years ago, have launched an internet campaign to demand his release and a number of politicians have urged the Moroccan authorities to act.

His son, Adrian Cole, said his father has been condemned to a "bleak'' and overcrowded prison where he is forced to sleep on a concrete floor.

In a post on his Facebook page, he wrote: "Many of you who know me will know that my father came out as gay a few years ago. He had been holidaying in Morocco with a Moroccan friend and sadly has been arrested and charged with being gay.

"He has now been sentenced to four months in the central prison in Marrakech. Life is pretty bleak in there, they are served boiled vegetables once a day and his cell is a dorm designed to sleep 44, however since there are 60 men in there, my 70-year-old father sleeps on the concrete floor.

"The prison does not segregate, so he is sharing with murderers, rapists, paedophiles etc. We have been working with the foreign and common wealth office, but of course they cannot change the law.

"What we can do though is make this an embarrassment for the Moroccan authorities, this country produces nothing, they rely on tourists, like my father. They then decide to judge you and your life and may or may not treat you in this fashion.''

It is understood that when Mr Cole was arrested police searched his phone and found photographs which they used to prosecute him in court.

Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, branded the charges "medieval'' and said it showed British tourists are not safe in Morocco.

He said: "I have been doing all I can to help free Mr Cole from these appalling charges. I am deeply concerned about his safety and it is clear that if you visit Morocco you are at serious risk of facing trumped up charges for medieval crimes.

"The message is clear - Morocco is not safe for British tourists.

"I am gravely concerned by the state of Moroccan prisons, and the care and the safety he will have in jail.

"I'm raising it with ministers, asking them to intervene more directly on his behalf. It is a shocking and appalling situation for a British national to be in, and it is really important to get him back to the UK.''

A #freeraycole hashtag has been set up on Twitter and a Facebook page has also been set up calling for Mr Cole's release.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: "We can confirm the detention of a British national in Morocco. We are providing consular assistance.''

The Foreign Office website states that homosexuality is a criminal offence in Morocco.

It states: "Sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law.''