2 Ugandans go on trial over homosexual offenses

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Ugandan court on Wednesday started hearing the case against two Ugandans accused of engaging in gay sex, the first trial of homosexuals here since a severe law was enacted in February.

The detained couple appeared before a magistrate's court in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, to apply for bail after prosecutors said they had enough evidence to proceed with the case. Ugandan police arrested the couple in January as they fled an angry mob, said the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, a local watchdog group.

Prosecutors have lined up several witnesses to testify against the two, who have been charged with engaging in sex acts "against the order of nature," said their lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi. Although Uganda has had anti-gay legislation since the colonial era, President Yoweri Museveni enacted a law in February that strengthened criminal penalties against gay sex.

Gay leaders report that scores of Ugandan homosexuals have gone underground or fled the country since the new law was enacted. The law has been widely criticized in the West as draconian and unnecessary in a country where homosexuality had long been criminalized.

In signing the bill, Museveni said he wanted to deter Western groups from promoting homosexuality in this East African country. Some Western countries have since withheld or cut aid to Uganda over the law, urging the country's legislators to repeal it.

Ugandan government officials have described Western pressure over the bill as blackmail.

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