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Ugandan granted bail in first gay sex trial since tough new law

By Samson Ntale, for CNN
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jackson Mukasa received bail after fulfilling conditions for his release
  • His co-defendant Hakim Mukisa remains in jail
  • Their trial is set to start on June 12

Kampala, Uganda (CNN) -- One of two men set to go on trial for homosexual acts in Uganda has been granted bail in the first case since the nation adopted tough anti-gay laws.

After almost five months without trial, Jackson Mukasa, 26, a market vendor, received bail Wednesday after fulfilling conditions for his release.

His co-defendant, Hakim Mukisa, 19, a student, is still in jail because he's not met residency conditions for bail.

Mukisa has yet to get his passport stamped by authorities in his suburb of Kampala. The stamp is a court requirement to verify his residence because he does not have an identification card.

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Their trial is set to start on June 12 before a court in the capital, Kampala.

"They are being accused of carnal knowledge against the order of nature. It is the law of sodomy under Section 145 of the penal code," said their lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuzi.

"We will be contesting the charges because a similar law is being contested in the Constitutional Court," Rwakafuzi said, referring to a petition seeking to nullify the anti-gay law that President Yoweri Museveni signed in February. The law toughens penalties against gay people and defines some homosexual acts as crimes punishable by life in prison. The law's harsh punishment for gays and lesbians has drawn international attention to Uganda.

The men are not being charged under that law because it's under appeal, said Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, a Ugandan human rights group. Instead, they're being prosecuted under a 1950 law.

"We will also ask the magistrates court to dismiss the matter, for there is no complainant. These are grounds we will be putting forward for the accused to be set free," Rwakafuzi told journalists shortly after securing their long-awaited bail.

The case attracted attention from the media and local gay community, which found lawyers for the men jailed since December. Their relatives and friends were part of crowd in the small courtroom Wednesday afternoon.

Another suspect, Chris Mubiru, awaits trial for allegedly possessing video showing him in homosexual acts with young men. The former manager of the Cranes national football team was granted bail in February. His trial will be held in the same courtroom.

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