A retired British man faces trial in Uganda after a tabloid newspaper published images of him having sex with another man, in charges which he has called “nonsensical”.
Bernard Randall, 65, was horrified to see the stills from “very private videos” appear in the press, and added that he was “devastated” when police arrested and subsequently charged him.
He will answer bail on Monday, and stands accused of “trafficking obscene publications” – reduced from a more serious charge of being involved in “an unnatural act”.
Homosexuality is a crime in Uganda, punishable by up to 14 years in jail, and despite numerous diplomatic protests from the international community the country is currently considering proposals to extend the penalty to life imprisonment.
While the trafficking charge against Mr Randall could see him receive a two-year jail term, police have also arrested his Ugandan partner, 30-year-old Albert Cheptoyek, accusing him of “acts of gross indecency” – which carries a seven year term.
Mr Randall’s campaign has received backing from Stephen Fry, whose documentary Out There last month saw him confronting a Ugandan pastor over the country’s gay rights record, and the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
His supporters say he has received death threats after the pictures emerged, and lives in fear of homophobic mob attacks. The images appeared in a Ugandan tabloid popular for its celebrity and sex scandal stories, following the theft of a computer from Mr Randall’s home.
Speaking from Uganda, the former computer analyst from Faversham in Kent said: “The charges are nonsensical.
“The publication of the pictures was as a consequence of the theft of my laptop. I wasn't publishing them. They were very private videos of my private life that got stolen.”
Speaking on his reaction to being charged, he added: “I was devastated.
“The worst thing was being taken away from our home at 6.30am and thrown into cells where we spent three nights and three whole days until we were charged.
“There was just a concrete floor, no blankets and no pillows, and it wasn't very comfortable. There were quite a lot of people, 18 other criminals in there.
“They had seen the newspaper in the cell so they all were aware of the situation.”
An online petition calling for Mr Randall to be saved from imprisonment said Uganda's gay laws were a “moral outrage” and that he was “scared out of his mind and at the mercy of mob rule and vigilantism”.
One of Mr Randall's friends, Dr Nick Fabbri, told BBC South East Today: “Talking to Bernard, there is a level of vigilantism that exists in Uganda against gays. I wouldn't want to be in his position and we all feel terribly for him.”
Mr Tatchell told the programme: “The consequences of the tabloid exposure of those gay people in Uganda is that many of them have been victims of violent assaults, they have had attacks on their homes and many have been forced out of their jobs.
“This is a really, really shocking attack on gay human rights in Uganda and the Ugandan government is sitting back and allowing it to happen.”
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman in London said: “We are aware of the arrest of a British national on 19 October in Uganda, and are providing consular assistance.”
You can sign up to the Bring Bernard Home online petition here.
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