UK man held in Uganda for breaking anti-gay laws could be deported next week
A British man charged in Uganda after images of him having sex with a man were published in a newspaper says he is due to be deported back to the UK.
Bernard Randell was arrested in October and charged with “trafficking obscene publications” after Uganda’s Red Pepper newspaper made public the details of the video on its front page under the headline: “Exposed – Top City Tycoons Sodomy Sex Video Leaks.”
Mr Randell, who has pleaded not guilty, claims the film was unearthed by robbers who stole his laptop and passed the footage to the newspaper.
The 65-year-old and his Ugandan partner Albert Cheptoyek, 30, were due to stand trial on 4 December.
But on Thursday Mr Randell told the Press Association that he could be deported back to the UK as early as next week.
Mr Randall, originally from Faversham, Kent, believes a visa issue has been used by the Ugandan authorities “at the highest level” to avoid them being seen as homophobic.
He said: “The policeman … said that my application for the visa extension had been refused and that the passport would be sent to the airport to await my departure, which is currently scheduled for Friday December 6, and that I was an illegal alien as I was still in the country after the expiry of my visa.”
Mr Randall has denied trafficking obscene material, which carries a two-year jail term. His partner faces a more serious charge of gross indecency, which carries a seven-year jail term.
Mr Randall added: “I want the charges to be formally dropped, and I want to be able to come back to the country, but at the same time I also want to go home to see my family.”
He said it was unclear whether his trial will go ahead next week and that the case surrounding his partner remained equally unclear.
Jane Okuo Kajuga, a spokeswoman for Uganda’s directorate of public prosecutions, has previously claimed the charge against Mr Randall has nothing to do with sexual orientation. But the couple’s supporters say their cases are the latest examples of state-sponsored harassment of LGBT people in Uganda.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has been championing the cause of Mr Randall and other gay trial defendants in Uganda, said to PinkNews.co.uk: “This looks like an attempt to avoid an embarrassing ‘show trial’ that would draw international attention to the persecution of gay people in Uganda. The government hopes to end the negative publicity that Randall’s case has generated by removing him from the country.
“Although he’s relieved that he won’t now stand trial and run the risk of imprisonment, deportation is a devastating blow for Mr Randall. His dream of a new life in Uganda is now shattered. He is being forced out of his home and forced apart from his Ugandan friends. He loves Uganda.
“While Mr Randall may now avoid prosecution, we are concerned that his friend, Albert Cheptoyek, still faces serious charges. There is also the separate trial of the Ugandan gay rights leader Samuel Ganafa. He is being prosecuted for sodomy, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.”
“The victimisation of Mr Randall and other gay people in Uganda violates the country’s constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, both of which guarantee equal treatment and non-discrimination. The criminalisation of homosexuality is contrary to these human rights obligations, which Uganda has agreed and pledged to uphold.
“The anti-gay laws under which Mr Randall was arrested date back to the nineteenth century. They were imposed on Uganda by the British colonial administration. All the charges should be dropped and the colonial era anti-homosexual laws repealed.”
Same-sex sexual relationships are illegal in the African country with little to no legal protections existing for the LGBT community.