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Uganda: Police raid gay rights meeting

June 20, 2012 at 2:46 PM

NAJJERA, Uganda, June 20 (UPI) -- A three-day meeting organized by gay rights groups on the outskirts of Uganda's capital was called off after a police raid, advocates said.

The meeting was to have taken place at the Esere Hotel in Najjera; however, police raided it Monday. Police detained five participants, searched rooms and dispersed the rest of the hotel guests. The participants were later released without charges and the rest of the meeting was canceled.

Several rights groups, including Freedom House and Amnesty International, issued a statement condemning the raid as "arbitrary and an illegitimate infringement on freedom of association and assembly."

Radio France Internationale reported the meeting was organized by the Eastern Horn Human Rights Defenders project and aimed toward sexual minorities.

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and in recent years there have been legislative attempts to stiffen penalties that would include up to life in jail.

"We are worried, since the bishops came out and supported the bill to be passed, because its content is contrary to the constitution," said Julian Pepe Onzima, director of Eastern Horn Human Rights Defenders. "It's really sad that, instead of the country having laws that protect its citizens, it's actually creating laws that infringe on their rights as citizens of Uganda and make them live in fear."

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