A Uganda cabinet minister has raided a workshop for gay activists and tried to arrest the organiser, a Ugandan paper and UK-based rights group have said.
Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo said the gathering was “illegal” and ordered delegates out of the hotel near the capital.
It comes days after an MP retabled a controversial anti-gay bill.
It proposes increasing the penalties in Uganda for homosexual acts, which are illegal, from 14 years in jail to life.
David Bahati, the MP behind the proposed legislation, says a clause proposing the death penalty will be dropped.
The bill was first introduced in 2009 but never debated.
It originally said those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender” – would face the death penalty.
In a statement last week, the government defended its right to debate the anti-gay bill but said the draft legislation did not have official backing.
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The Ugandan government must allow legitimate, peaceful gatherings of human rights defenders”
Salil Shetty Amnesty
The workshop was organised by Freedom and Roam Uganda, an organisation founded by prominent Uganda gay rights activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, at a hotel in Entebbe 40km (25 miles) from the capital, Kampala, Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper reports.
“I have closed this conference because it’s illegal. We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home,” the paper quotes Mr Lokodo as saying.
According to UK-based rights group Amnesty International, Mr Lokodo said if the activists did not leave immediately he would use force against them.
The minister also ordered the arrest of Ms Nabagesera , who was given the prestigious Martin Ennals rights award last year for her work fighting homophobia in Uganda, but she fled the hotel.
“This is an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said in a statement.
“The government’s claimed opposition to the bill needs to be supported through their actions. The Ugandan government must allow legitimate, peaceful gatherings of human rights defenders, including those working on LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] rights,” Mr Shetty said.
Both the US and UK have recently urged developing countries to respect gay rights or risk losing aid.
Since the bill was retabled there have been reports of increased harassment against homosexuals, gay rights groups say.
In January 2011, gay rights activist David Kato was killed in what some said was a hate crime – the police said it was linked to a robbery.
At his funeral, the priest condemned gay people.BBC