An official says seven people who were arrested this month on suspicion of violating Cameroon's anti-gay law have been released but will remain under close observation.

Donatus Sembe, a police official in Yaounde, the capital, said Thursday that four of them were released Wednesday for lack of evidence and the other three were freed earlier in the week.

The group included men and transgender women. Lawyers working to defend them confirmed they had been freed.

Cameroon arrests and prosecutes more sexual minorities than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Human Rights Watch. The country's penal code punishes homosexual acts with up to five years in prison.

Sembe said the seven would be re-arrested and put on trial, if they engaged in "any deviant behavior."