NEW DELHI — The police in Bangladesh raided a monthly gathering of gay men at a community center on the outskirts of Dhaka early Friday and arrested 27 men on suspicion of drug-related offenses, officials said.
The men, mostly college and graduate students in their 20s, were found with drugs, condoms and lubricant, but because they were not observed to be engaging in sex, the police did not charge them with homosexuality, which is a crime in Bangladesh. The police also arrested the owner of the community center.
Neighbors had complained to the police that outsiders were coming into the area, Keraniganj, and accused them of engaging in “suspicious, illegal activities,” said Jahangir Hossain Matubbar, the commanding officer of an elite police unit.
“Yesterday when we arrested them, they did not complete the homosexuality act,” Mr. Matubbar said. “They were preparing for that.”
The arrests come at a time when some gay men have left Bangladesh over fears of attacks. In April 2016, a gay rights activist and his friend were hacked to death in his apartment in Dhaka, the capital. Gay men have also been attacked by members of conservative groups.
These attacks have taken place against a backdrop of other violence carried out by Islamist militants against secular activists and writers in the country.
In the raid on Friday, the police confiscated 250 grams of marijuana and stimulants known as “yaba,” made from methamphetamine, at the community center.
Mr. Matubbar said that the men arrested at the community center lived in different parts of the country and communicated through Facebook. He said that the group had been formed at least six months ago, and that it met about once a month. Its members would pool their resources to rent the community center for a night for about $124, he said.
“We were very suspicious about them,” he said. “For a long time they have been gathering there.” He said people in the area were concerned about whether any “illegal activity or any militant activity” was taking place at the meetings.
“People informed us and we rushed there to find why they had been gathering there,” he said.
Human rights activists and gay rights advocates have long opposed the law against homosexuality in Bangladesh, which dates back to the colonial era.
“Why are these young people arrested?” Imran Sarker, an activist and blogger, asked. “We always opposed that law.”