A Ugandan criminal court has released LGBTI-activist Samuel Ganafa and dismissed all charges against him.
Last November, Ganafa and two others were arrested on charges of “unnatural offenses” – a crime that warrants up to a life sentence. On October 8, the same court dismissed the charges almost a full year after Ganafa’s arrest.
At the time of his arrest, Ganafa had not been charged with a crime. He was taken into custody after reporting to the Kangsati Police Station at the request of the police commander, amid rumors that he knowingly transmitted HIV to a former lover.
While incarcerated, authorities forced Ganafa to undergo mandatory HIV testing without a court order or Ganafa’s consent.
Following Ganafa’s arrest, two men were forcibly removed from his home. All three were charged with “unnatural offenses.”
Ganafa is the director of Spectrum Uganda Initiatives and chair of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) – both prominent LGBTI advocacy organizations. Over the years, Ganafa’s home has served as both the Spectrum Uganda office and a shelter for LGBTI individuals in need.
Ganafa’s trial saw frequent setbacks. As the proceedings unfolded, the prosecution repeatedly asked for delays. On October 8, the prosecution requested another delay, prompting the court to reject the request and dismiss the charges.
Botched trials and fabricated charges are commonplace for the LGBTI community of Uganda, where police frequently arrest LGBTI individuals without the evidence required to convict them of sodomy.
Despite grim prospects, Ganafa remains hopeful that the court system will bring some much needed justice to LGBTI Ugandans. ““The court action is a good sign, because it’s independent and opens a window of hope for us. We also expect the same action to be taken in other cases currently before the courts. I pray that the courts will ward off possible pressures from the anti-gay lobby.” Ganafa said.
Though optimistic about outcomes for the LGBTI community as large, Ganafa remains pragmatic about the prospects of his own freedom. “Regarding my personal security, it remains a priority because some of our adversaries have vowed to strike again. That means that I and others need to be very careful with people who come close to us,” said Ganafa.
The two men arrested with Ganafa have also been released and subsequently fled to Kenya.
Kuddus, O., & Reid-Smith, T. (n.d.). Uganda cops arrest leading gay activist and two friends. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
Wee, D. (2014, October 29). Uganda dismisses case against gay activist. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
Colin, S. (n.d.). Uganda activists protest arrest of LGBT leader, 4 more. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
Image courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson/Facebook
Adreanna Nattiel is a writer, activist, and queer feminist based in Atlanta, GA. Her primary interest is media and pop culture studies and how they intersect with body politics for people of color. She is a real-life witch, aspiring cat lady, and horror junkie. Her plan is to take over the world, one flawless brow at a time.