British man faces possible jail sentence under Ugandan anti-gay laws

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A British citizen living part-time in Uganda is scheduled to appear in court on December 4, to answer to charges of “trafficking obscene publications” after evidence of him having sex with another man were found on his stolen laptop.

Bernard Randall, 65, pleaded not guilty in October in his first court appearance; he was arrested after his computer was stolen and files on it were forwarded to a Ugandan tabloid. His trial was originally set for November 18, but postponed after his lawyer requested time to review evidence and plan a defense strategy.

“I’m completely innocent, but I have no faith in the Ugandan judicial system,” he told AFP on November 16, which reported that he was clearly suffering from stress and lack of sleep.

Randall added, “[The photos] were very private. They were just for me.” He was horrified to see the photographs, which had been taken thousands of miles away in Morocco, in print. “If any trafficking was done, it was by the robbers who took the laptop, and the newspaper for printing them.”

If convicted, he faces two years in jail. “It was bad enough being in the cells at the police station. Being imprisoned, it horrifies me, the thought of that,” he said. He also worries that even if he is set free, he will be deported and forbidden from returning; he migrates to Uganda every winter to escape the weather of his native Britain.

In the wake of his photos being published, remembering stories of Ugandan LGBT activists who say they frequently receive death threats, Randall said he was “terrified… I’ve put padlocks on the windows, checked all the locks on the doors,” for fear of sharing the fate of those like David Kato, beaten to death in his own home in 2011.

However, he also said that to the contrary, his treatment by those around him has remained perfectly respectful. “Ugandans are very kind people…and ordinary Ugandans have responded wonderfully—some gay, some not gay—but all saying ‘it is your life to do with it as you want.’”

On the day the trial was originally scheduled, November 18, pro-LGBT activists gathered outside the Uganda High Commission in London to protest multiple LGBT-related cases, including that of Ugandan LGBT rights leader Samuel K. Ganafa, who stands accused of sodomy and infecting another man with HIV, claims the London group finds dubious; at press time, his trial was still scheduled for that day.

The organizer of the protest, Richard Banadda, of the African LGBT Out & Proud Diamond Group, told “Pink News” that the purpose of the protest was to demand that Ganafa, Randall, and others be released immediately.

He added, “Britain and the EU should declare Uganda as unsafe for LGBTI people and issue warnings to LGBTI people travelling to Uganda as tourists or living there as expatriates.”

Though it is currently stalled, Uganda is still considering a bill under which certain homosexual acts, or being convicted twice of homosexual activity, would result in being sentenced to death.

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