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Uganda frees British gay play producer on bail

David Cecil will face Uganda court, which may bring in the death penalty for gay people, next month
David Cecil was set free on bail after being imprisoned in a Ugandan jail last Thursday.

Uganda has released a British man, who staged a play about a gay man, on bail today (17 September).

Producer David Cecil, who faces up to two years in jail if found guilty, was charged on 13 September with two counts including one of ‘disobeying lawful orders’ and sent to prison.

John Francis Onyango, Cecil’s lawyer, said: ‘He has now been granted bail and is being released,’ and added bail had cost around $200 (£123, €152).

Onyango said Cecil was in good condition following his brief time in prison, and had been ordered to appear back in court in around a month’s time.

The 34-year-old must seek special authorization from the court if he wants to leave the country, which would be unlikely to happen.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said they are providing consular assistance to Cecil after it was revealed Ugandan police confiscated his passport.

The play, ‘The River and the Mountain’, whose main character is a gay businessman who is killed by his own employees, was performed eight times in small theatres.

A first for Uganda, it was praised by gay rights activists who said it was ‘revolutionary’.

The Media Council banned the play after the performances on 29 August, saying sections ‘implicitly promote homosexual acts’ which are ‘contrary to the laws, cultural norms and values of Uganda.’

Cecil said he went with staging the play because the Media Council’s initial warning letter made no reference to any legal consequences.

‘I really didn’t mean to insult anyone, and I am not a rights advocate. I only wanted to open up dialogue,’ he said.

While male and female homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda, proposed legislation currently before parliament would see the death penalty introduced.

Although legislators have said the bill could be changed, it currently states anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for the second time would be sentenced to death.

Public discussion of homosexuality, including by rights groups, would be punished by up to seven years in jail.

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