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British producer accused in Uganda over gay play says case is dropped

From Jo Shelley, CNN
January 2, 2013 -- Updated 1648 GMT (0048 HKT)
British theatre producer David Cecil waves from a court cell at the Makindye Court on September 13, 2012 in Kampala.
British theatre producer David Cecil waves from a court cell at the Makindye Court on September 13, 2012 in Kampala.
  • British theater producer David Cecil says a magistrate has dismissed the case against him
  • The magistrate said prosecutors had given no evidence to substantiate the charges, he said
  • Cecil was detained for staging a play about the challenges faced by homosexuals in Uganda
  • Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda, where most gays and lesbians face discrimination

(CNN) -- A British theater producer who was briefly jailed in Uganda because of his play about the challenges facing gay people in the African nation said Wednesday the case against him had been dropped.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda, where most gays and lesbians face physical attacks and are treated as social outcasts.

David Cecil told CNN he was in the Ugandan court when the magistrate dismissed the case.

Read more: Uganda lawmakers to vote on anti-gay law

Speaking by phone from Kampala, he said the magistrate told the court Cecil had complied with the investigation, and was clearly not afraid to face the charges.

However, the magistrate said the prosecution failed to provide evidence to substantiate the charges, Cecil said.

Proposed laws target gays in Uganda
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The charges themselves have not been dropped, Cecil added, but if the state wanted to reopen the case, the magistrate made clear it would have to start again from the beginning.

Cecil said he was confident the state would not reopen the case.

He said plans to stay in Uganda, where his family lives.

Read more: Uganda bans 38 agencies it says are promoting gay rights

Cecil was briefly jailed in September after he was arrested on charges of "disobedience of lawful orders" for staging the play without authorization. His lawyer, John Onyango, said then that Cecil could be imprisoned for two years, if convicted.

The play, "The River and the Mountain," features an all-Ugandan cast, and tells the story of a gay businessman killed by his employees.

It uses the life of its main character -- a young businessman whose friends desert him after his revelation that he's a homosexual -- to highlight the challenges of gays in Uganda. The character's mother unsuccessfully intervenes to "cure" him of his homosexuality, and his colleagues later kill him.

Read more: British producer faces 2 years in prison for play about gay challenges in Uganda

Late last year, lawmakers in Uganda were mulling a new anti-homosexuality bill that proposes tough jail sentences for consensual same-sex behavior.

Amnesty International, which has urged the Ugandan parliament not to pass the legislation, says it "would have lasting, harmful effects on Ugandans who are thought to breach its far-reaching provisions."

Parliament is expected to reconvene in February, the rights group said, after which it could decide to table a vote.

Homosexuality is illegal in most countries in Africa, where sodomy laws were introduced during colonialism.

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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