The Australian tourist jailed for two years for consensual gay sex in Fiji earlier this year has reportedly returned home after the Pacific nation’s High Court overturned his conviction last Friday.

Victorian man Thomas McCosker, 55, is said to have returned to Australia after his and Fijian man Dhirendra Nadan’s conviction for gay sex was quashed on constitutional grounds, in a move gay activists say sets an international example for human rights.

High Court judge Gerard Winter said the pair’s conviction was invalid because it contravened Fiji’s constitutional protection of privacy and equality, Australian Associated Press reported.

However, the ruling only applied to gay sex in private.

Fiji’s current criminal laws prohibit gay sex, allowing for a sentence of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, although it is unclear what effect today’s decision has on the legislation.

The judge also said the magistrate who heard McCosker and 23-year-old Nadan’s case in April had made inappropriate statements.

Magistrate Syed Muhktar Shah called the acts something so disgusting that it would make any decent person vomit before he sentenced McCosker and Nadan to two years’ jail.

The pair was later freed pending today’s successful appeal.

McCosker’s lawyer, Natasha Khan, said today’s judgment was not the all-encompassing victory we were looking for but would still have an effect in Fiji, Australian Associated Press reported.

The Australian, who was convicted in April after reportedly telling police Nadan stole about $1,500 from his wallet, is expected to return home following the decision.

Local activists have welcomed the High Court ruling.

New national lobby group Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE) said the judgment sent a message to other nations with anti-gay laws, particularly those in the South Pacific.

There are still more than 80 nations around the world that criminalise same-sex sexual activity, with penalties ranging from imprisonment to death -“ many of these in South East Asia and the Pacific, ACE spokesperson Rod Swift said.

Australia should be imploring nations with anti-gay laws in regional summits -“ like the South Pacific Forum and ASEAN -“ to comply with international human rights obligations and rescind these offensive laws.

Earlier today, West Australian gay activists held a peaceful protest outside the Fijian consulate in Perth.

Rodney Croome, from the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, hailed the Fiji decision as a victory for human rights.

This is a victory not only for the two men wrongly imprisoned, but for all gay people in Fiji, Croome said.

It shows that national and international human rights laws have an invaluable role to play in protecting individual rights and freedoms.

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