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February 14, 2012

Amnesty International: Ugandan Minister Raids Gay Rights Workshop

An international human rights group says a Ugandan government minister has raided a homosexual rights workshop, just days after a controversial new anti-homosexuality bill was re-introduced to parliament.

Amnesty International says Uganda's Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, broke up the meeting that was being held in a hotel in Entebbe on Tuesday.

The organization says Lokodo, accompanied by police, announced the gathering was illegal and warned he would use force if they did not leave immediately.

Amnesty called the incident an "outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda."

Lokodo told the French news agency, AFP, that he broke up the meeting in his capacity as the "conscience of the nation." He said he was sending a "clear message" that Uganda "does not promote, encourage or applaud in any way this form of association."

Homosexuality is currently outlawed in Uganda. But controversial new legislation re-introduced to parliament last week would stiffen penalties for homosexuals.

Uganda's government says it does not support the bill, which in its original form called for the death penalty for certain offenses.

The lawmaker behind the bill, David Bahati, says he has re-written it to remove the capital punishment clause.

The bill has drawn condemnation from leaders in Europe and the United States, including President Barack Obama, who described it as "odious."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.