Police in Uganda have arrested around 120 LGBTIQ people in a raid on a bar known as a safe haven for the queer community in the African country.
The raid happened at the RAM Bar late on Sunday night in Uganda’s capital Kampala, during a weekly LGBTIQ gathering at the venue.
Armed police herded bar patrons into the street during the raid.
Police claimed they targeted the venue because patrons were allegedly smoking banned narcotics.
A police spokesperson denied to BBC News the patrons were targeted because they were LGBTIQ.
Sexual Minorities Uganda director Frank Mugisha told Voice of America he believed the arrests were to “intimidate” the LGBTIQ community.
“I think its totally aimed at intimidation of the LGBT community,” he said.
“The police is coming up with trumped-up charges. I don’t think all 120 people were publicly smoking.
“We don’t know what will happen next. I think we are still looking at the worst.”
LGBTIQ people face homophobic violence and persecution in Uganda
Last month, police arrested and 16 men on suspicion of gay sex in an earlier raid. The men were taken into custody at a meeting of a local NGO.
Police later subjected them to “degrading and inhumane” forced anal exams, local activists said.
Gay sex is illegal in Uganda and punishable with life in prison.
In October, Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister Simon Lokodo announcing the government wanted to reintroduce the death penalty for gay sex.
Lokodo said the existing law was not sufficient to fight “recruitment by gay people.” However, the government later backtracked after international outcry.
Human rights groups warned the government’s new anti-LGBTIQ rhetoric alone will “fire up more hatred in an already homophobic environment” in Uganda.
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