Uganda says to deport British producer of gay play

KAMPALA Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:16pm GMT

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan authorities said on Monday they plan to deport a British theatre producer who was charged last year with staging a play about homosexuality.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and David Cecil, 35, was charged with disobeying a public official last September after ignoring official orders to cancel a theatre production with a gay leading character.

A court dropped the charges against him last month due to lack of evidence. Cecil, who denied being a gay rights activist, would have faced two to four years in jail if convicted.

Even so, "the process of removing him from the country is on," Uganda's director for immigration, Godfrey Sasagah, told Reuters on Monday.

"He's going to be removed from the country ... this was a decision that was taken by the minister (of internal affairs) ... and we have prepared the relevant papers."

British High Commission spokesperson Chris Ward said it was aware of Cecil's detention and providing him with "consular assistance".

Fridah Mutesi, one of Cecil's lawyers and a gay rights activist, told Reuters she would file an appeal against deportation in the high court this week. Mutesi said Ugandan officials had not allowed the lawyers to see the grounds for the deportation.

"We're in the process of challenging the whole deportation," she said. "If they're relying on the previous case, that case was dismissed."

Florence Kebirungi, Cecil's partner, said he was arrested at her business premises in the capital, Kampala, on Wednesday, and that immigration officers have told her to book him a ticket out of the country.

She said Cecil was being held in a Kampala prison that wasn't allowing visitors over the weekend, and that his phone has been switched off.

Cecil had planned to stay in Kampala, where he helps Kebirungi run a cultural centre that stages plays and concerts.

He had applied for a work permit which was being processed, and had planned to take the contested play, The River and the Mountain, on tour including to Kenya, South Africa and Washington, Kebirungi said.

Uganda's commissioner for immigration and legal services, Josephine Ekwang, said the country's immigration act allows the deportation of any foreigner "declared by the government as an undesirable immigrant."

Countries including the United States have criticised an anti-homosexuality bill currently before the Ugandan parliament. The bill seeks to impose jail terms of up to life imprisonment for some homosexual activities. Germany cut off aid to Uganda late last year citing the bill as one of its concerns.

(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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