Uganda deports British theatre producer over play exploring gay issues

David Cecil, who angered Ugandan authorities by staging a play about homosexuality, is deported without warning

A British theatre producer who angered Ugandan authorities by staging a play about homosexuality has been deported back to the UK, leaving behind his partner and two children.

David Cecil’s deportation came as a shock to his family and legal team, who had been hoping to appeal against proceedings to expel him from Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal.

Cecil was charged last year after putting on The River and the Mountain, a play that explored the difficulties of being homosexual in Uganda, but the charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence. He was rearrested last week.

Cecil’s partner, Florence Kebirungi, only found out about the deportation when the director was allowed a brief phone call to her from the airport. “He was sent back to the UK,” she said. “It caught everyone by surprise. I had seen him [on Monday] around 3pm at the police station. Of course we didn’t know then that he would be deported.

“David hasn’t killed anyone, he hasn’t hurt anyone,” said Kebirungi. “He has two children here. The case against him [for producing the play] was dismissed last month. He was not treated fairly. None of us has been treated fairly.”

Fridah Mutesi, Cecil’s lawyer, confirmed the deportation. “We were doing all that was possible to appeal [against] the decision and we can still appeal it if David instructs us to do so for the future,” he said.

Chris Ward, a spokesman for the British high commission in Uganda, said there was “concern that [Cecil] was deported without a chance to challenge the deportation”. He added that British officials would be “looking at ways in which we can discuss due process with the Ugandan authorities”.

Ugandan immigration officials were not immediately responding to requests for comment, but on Monday Uganda’s director for immigration, Godfrey Sasagah, had told Reuters that “the process of removing [Cecil] from the country is on. 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.”

Cecil was arrested in September last year and was facing two years in jail for staging the play, which had been banned by Ugandan media regulators, until the charges against him were dropped.

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