Sixty-seven people arrested by police in a Kampala bar popular with gays were charged with “common nuisance” on Tuesday, but rights activists said it was a bid to intimidate the LGBT community.
The police raided the Ram Bar in the heart of the Ugandan capital on Sunday and arrested 125 people, 58 of whom were subsequently freed.
Police spokesman Patrick Onyango initially told AFP they did not know the bar was hosting an LGBT event on the night of the raid, which was targeted at illegal tobacco and opium use.
The 61 men and six women were subsequently charged with the unrelated offence of common nuisance.
Clare Byarugaba from the human rights organisation Chapter Four Uganda told AFP that the police deliberately targeted the bar.
“The police knew who they would be targeting. It’s a crackdown on any space seen to be LGBT-friendly,” Byarugaba said.
“This was intended to intimate and scare LGBT individuals.”
Human rights lawyer Patricia Kimera, who represented many of the accused in court, told journalists that her clients had not received a “fair hearing”.
“Their rights have not been respected,” she said. “These people were caught having fun in a bar. There’s no evidence they were a common nuisance.”
Uganda has strict anti-gay legislation but there have been no prosecutions for consensual same-sex acts in recent years.
However acts deemed “against the order of nature” can lead to life imprisonment.
At the end of October, 16 Ugandan LGBT activists were subjected to forced anal examinations after being arrested, according to the country’s leading gay rights organisation.