Brit producer of gay play in Uganda held in jail

Published: September 13, 2012

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The British producer of a play about being gay in Uganda is in jail pending his trial on charges that he had the work performed without official authorization.
 

David Cecil appeared in court Thursday charged with ‘‘disobeying lawful orders’’ from the Uganda Media Council, which says he staged ‘‘The River and the Mountain’’ in Uganda’s capital last month despite orders to the contrary.
 

Cecil’s lawyer, Francis Onyango, said his client was not released on bail because his passport, wanted by the magistrate, had been confiscated by the police.
 

Cecil told The Associated Press that the play, whose main character is a gay businessman who finally gets killed by his own employees, was performed eight times at little-known theaters in Kampala last month. The play, a first for Uganda, was praised by gay rights activists who said it was ‘‘revolutionary’’ in the way it provoked an examination of common thinking about gays. But the play failed to make it to Uganda’s national theater, where producers rejected the script.
 

Homosexuals are highly stigmatized in Uganda, where in 2010 a lawmaker with the ruling party introduced a bill proposing the death penalty for what he called ‘‘aggravated homosexuality.’’ The bill, which is now in committee, has been condemned by some world leaders. The bill’s author says he still believes it will be passed one day.
 

Cecil, who faces two years in jail if convicted, said he was singled out for legal action because he had become the play’s ‘‘public face,’’ the man who printed posters and sent out invitations. The play was written by a British student of poetry named Beau Hopkins, who has not been targeted by the police.

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