Uganda throws out case against British gay play producer

KAMPALA Wed Jan 2, 2013 1:53pm EST

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - A Ugandan court threw out a case on Wednesday against a British theatre producer accused of staging a play about homosexuality in the religiously conservative east African country, the producer said.

David Cecil, 35, was arrested in September after he put on 'The River and The Mountain', a comedy-drama about a gay businessman, in the capital, Kampala.

Cecil was charged with disobeying a public official but the trial was halted due to a lack of evidence.

"The magistrate has given me back my passport and said you can go," Cecil told Reuters. "I left the court with a big grin."

The production defied an injunction imposed by the authorities and came at a politically sensitive time.

Uganda's parliament is sitting on a draft anti-gay law which rights groups have blasted for its draconian penalties against gays in a country where homosexuality is already illegal.

The bill had initially proposed the death penalty for gays but still presents an array of jail terms for convicted homosexuals, including life imprisonment in certain circumstances.

Denounced as "odious" by U.S. President Barack Obama, the bill has left veteran President Yoweri Museveni struggling to balance the demands of the evangelical church on one side and aid donors who have threatened to cut aid on the other.

Cecil had faced two to four years in jail if convicted.

Minister of Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo promised a new investigation into Cecil whom he accused of promoting homosexuality.

Cecil denied he was a gay rights activist.

"I am not interested in promoting homosexuality or even protecting gay rights in the country. I simply find it contemptible for people to pick on an embattled minority," he said. (Reporting by Philippa Croome; Editing by Richard Lough)

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