Bernard Randall, 65, and his Ugandan partner Albert Cheptoyek, 30, were due to stand trial on 4 December. The couple were charged after intimate images were published in an Ugandan newspaper following the theft of a laptop containing private videos during a break-in at Randall’s holiday home.
But the retired banking computer analyst, originally from Faversham, Kent, says he has learned that Ugandan officials refused an extension to his visa that would have been required for the court case to go ahead. The visa issue has been used by Ugandan authorities “at the highest level”, he believes, as a convenient excuse to avoid accusations of homophobia by global campaigners.
“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,” Randall told the Press Association.
Although Randall’s ordeal appears to be nearing its end, Cheptoyek’s fate remains uncertain. It is unclear whether the trial will still start in Entebbe on the scheduled date, Randall added.
Randall has denied trafficking obscene material, which carries a possible two-year jail term. Cheptoyek faces a more serious charge of gross indecency, which could result in a seven-year prison sentence.
Randall, who lost his wife of nearly 40 years in 2011 and subsequently came out as gay, 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.”
Jane Okuo Kajuga, a spokeswoman for Uganda’s directorate of public prosecutions, has previously claimed the charge against Randall has nothing to do with sexual orientation. But the couple’s supporters say their cases are the latest examples of state-sponsored and church-encouraged harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda.
The east African country has some of the harshest anti-gay on the continent, which have been the subject of diplomatic protests from other countries. Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison but the country’s politicians are proposing to extend this to life.
The public humiliation has also raised fears for the personal safety of Cheptoyek and Randall. In 2010 a Ugandan newspaper published the names of 100 men they said were homosexuals under the headline: “Hang Them”. A leading gay rights activist, David Kato, was bludgeoned to death at his home a few months later.
On Thursday Cheptoyek was quoted in the Independent as saying: “We don’t know if we are going to be killed because we’re already in the newspaper so everyone knows I’m gay and we’re scared for our lives because in Uganda it’s not allowed.”
In the wake of Randall’s prosecution, protests were held in London against what human rights campaigners have called “homophobic witch-hunts and show trials” in Uganda. His and his partner’s plight has drawn support from the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the actor and writer Stephen Fry, who tweeted: “We want our friend home. Please help to stop his persecution in Uganda.”
Source-The Guardian Africa