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Opposition MSPs and campaigners call on Scottish government to confront John Dramani Mahama over gay rights abuses

The president of Ghana was given polite applause by MSPs despite controversy over the country’s human rights record.

John Dramani Mahama attended First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood as part of a trip to Scotland to promote trade links.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those who applauded Mr Mahama, who was sitting in the VIP gallery with his wife Lordina, when he was introduced to the chamber, but some other MSPs did not.

According to the opposition an invitation to the president of Ghana to address MSPs undermines the safety of the Scottish parliament for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

After the Scottish parliament’s presiding officer, Tricia Marwick, said she would “extend the hand of friendship” to Mahama, members of the Scottish Greens, including their co-convenor Patrick Harvie, who is gay, wrote to her on Wednesday to urge caution.

Amnesty International has criticised Ghana’s record on torture, gay rights and violence against women and has also said that the police and intelligence services use torture and other ill-treatment against Ghanaian citizens, and it has recorded several cases of excessive force.

Naomi McAuliffe of Amnesty said: “Although President Mahama’s visit is primarily about trade, we urge the Scottish government and MSPs meeting him to be aware of these human rights abuses and take the opportunity to raise the issues.”

But gay rights charity Stonewall said it had “seen some promising statements from President Mahama criticising violence against LGBT communities”.

Responding to calls from opposition leaders, a Scottish government spokesperson confirmed that the First Minister would “share her strong view that the Commonwealth values of humanity, equality and tolerance are universal values” during the president’s visit.

Mr Mahama’s visit to Scotland will also see the president receive an honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen  today.

Independent MSP John Finnie has lodged a motion at Holyrood claiming that the president has given his “full support” to “discriminatory laws and relentless persecution” of LGBT people in Ghana.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission said it expected the Scottish government and parliament to “show leadership protecting and promoting international human rights standards.”

Stonewall said Ghana was one of 75 countries in the world where it was still illegal to be gay, carrying a sentence of up to three years in prison.

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