Uganda moves to deport British theatre producer David Cecil

Briton in custody, with lawyer saying order is result of court throwing out case brought over play about gay employer

David Cecil, the British theatre producer arrested in Uganda in 2012 for staging a play with a homosexual protagonist, is being held in police custody after being threatened with deportation.

Immigration officers took Cecil from his home in the outskirts of the capital, Kampala, on Thursday to Jinja Road police station, where he is being held. Fridah Mutesi, a human rights lawyer in Uganda, said the government did not disclose the grounds on which Cecil was being deported, but that it had the power to deport individuals deemed “undesirable”.

In January Cecil was charged with disobeying lawful orders by the Uganda media council, which said he had staged The River and The Mountain despite being told not to. The case was dismissed owing to a lack of evidence. It is believed that the deportation order is a result of his staging the play, which Cecil has described as a “comedy drama about a gay businessman killed by his employees“. The producer’s lawyer, Godwin Buwa, said the government was unhappy about Cecil’s court case last month being dismissed.

Cecil, who has a partner and young family in Kampala, said he would appeal against the deportation order, either from Uganda or from the UK. He said the arrest was “political, not legal”.

The move comes as the Ugandan parliament prepares to debate the controversial anti-homosexuality bill, first introduced in 2009. When MPs went on holiday before Christmas the bill topped the order papers. This week as parliament reconvened it has moved to six.

There are conflicting reports as to whether the death penalty for homosexuality has been removed from the draft bill, which is also said to contain clauses outlawing “aiding and abetting homosexuality” and “failing to report homosexuality”.

Harjeet Johal of the gay rights group Kaleidoscope Trust, who visited Kamapala recently, condemned the arrest. “This just demonstrates the level of harassment the LGBT community has been subject to in Uganda,” he said. “I spoke to LGBT people who face the daily ordeal of horrendous discrimination and harassment, and are forced to live their lives in the shadows.”

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