Uganda drops gay play charges

Charges against David Cecil, producer of a gay play staged in Uganda, have been dropped

Uganda drops gay play charges
02 January 2013

A court in Uganda has thrown out a case against UK theatre producer David Cecil, who was charged over a play about the condition of gay people.

Cecil told the BBC the case was dismissed either because of a ‘lack of will or a lack of evidence’ to try him.

Cecil was charged on 13 September with two counts, including one of ‘disobeying lawful orders’. He was jailed for four nights before being released on bail.

Cecil faced up to two years in jail if convicted.

Cecil told the BBC he was delighted by the magistrate’s decision to dismiss the case, although it could be reopened.

According to Cecil, the prosecution told the magistrate that police had not yet given them a case file.

‘This indicates the investigation has either stalled or they don’t have enough evidence’, he said.

The play called ‘The River and the Mountain’ is about a gay businessman who is killed by his own employees.

It was performed eight times in small theatres before being banned by authorities for ‘implicitly promoting homosexual acts’ which are ‘contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda’.

Speaking with Gay Star News, Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), welcomed the news that the prosecution was dropped.

He said: ‘The play was not about LGBT advocacy and was simply a drama which happened to have a gay character in it.

‘The state dropped interest in it because they didn’t provide much evidence or witnesses.’

Cecil’s plight has caught the attention of campaigners around the world, with celebrities including Stephen Fry backing a petition which calls on the Ugandan government to stop his persecution and to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

Both male and female homosexual activity is illegal in Uganda – under its penal code ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ between two males carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment.

In November 2012, the speaker of the parliament of Uganda promised to enact a revised Anti-Homosexuality Bill, providing for harsher penalties against suspected LGBT people and anyone who fails to report them to authorities, including long-term imprisonment and the death penalty for what the law terms ‘repeat offenders’.

The bill is due to be put to the vote early this year when parliament reconvenes.

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