Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry campaign to pardon gay men convicted with Imitation Game codebreaker Alan Turing

The actors have called for justice for the 50,000 gay men prosecuted by the British government while homosexuality was banned

Helen Nianias
Tuesday 27 January 2015 14:48 GMT

Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry have joined the campaign to rewrite history for the 49,000 British men who were persecuted for being gay along with Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing.

Turing was convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to chemical castration in 1952, for the simple fact that he was gay. Homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1967, but which point Turing had already died of cyanide poisoning. In 2013, the Queen issued a pardon for his "crime", finally wiping clean his record.

Cumberbatch played the mastermind behind the World War 2 Enigma story in film The Imitation Game, and says this is not good enough. "Alan Turing was not only prosecuted, but quite arguably persuaded to end his own life early, by a society who called him a criminal for simply seeking out the love he deserved, as all human beings do," Cumberbatch wrote to the Hollywood Reporter.

"Sixty years later, that same government claimed to ‘forgive’ him by pardoning him. I find this deplorable, because Turing’s actions did not warrant forgiveness — theirs did — and the 49,000 other prosecuted men deserve the same."

This comes after Stephen Fry, who recently married his partner Elliott Spencer, backed the campaign top pardon the men, and announced his own campaign to get Turing put on the £10 note.

In a moving speech, Fry said that pardoning Turing must only be the start of honouring the man dubbed the "father of computing".

"Should Alan Turing have been pardoned just because he was a genius when somewhere between 50 to 70 thousand other men were imprisoned, chemically castrated, had their lives ruined or indeed committed suicide because of the laws under which Turing suffered?" Fry said.

He continued: "There is a feeling that perhaps if he should be pardoned, then perhaps so should all of those men, whose names were ruined in their lifetime, but who still have families."

Fry added: "It was a nasty, malicious and horrific law and one that allowed so much blackmail and so much misery and so much distress, and Turing stands as a figure symbolic to his own age in the way that Oscar Wilde was."

Fry said the campaign for the £10 note will gather pace in May, after the General Election.

A new petition has been mounted to formally pardon all 49,000 men who were persecuted under British law for being gay.

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