World Bulletin / News Desk
A U.S.-funded HIV vaccine research facility in Kampala has halted operations following a raid on its offices by Ugandan police during which a staffer was arrested on suspicion of involvement in homosexuality-related issues.
The Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP) issued a statement saying that "on Thursday… a Ugandan citizen employed at the MUWRP was taken into custody by police at the project's offices in Kampala."
"We are working with the police to understand the circumstances under which this person was detained," the statement read.
It went on to note that project managers had resolved to suspend the MUWRP until they had a better understanding of the legal basis for the police action.
"We are suspending the operations of MUWRP to ensure the safety of our staff and the integrity of the program," the statement read. "We are working directly with the patients of MUWRP to ensure there is no interruption in their care."
Ibin Ssenkumbi, spokesperson for the Kampala Metropolitan Police, told Anadolu Agency that the project had been raided due to suspicions that individuals "who have a regular presence at the MUWRP" were involved in "some illegal acts related to recruitment and training on issues of homosexuality."
"Our detectives have been following them and yesterday we carried out an arrest," Ssenkumbi told AA on Friday. Police had also confiscated some electronic devices, he added, and "our officers are analyzing them."
When asked if Ugandan authorities had forced the project to suspend operations, Ssenkumbi said: "I think someone is trying to play some politics, but this will not hinder our ongoing investigations."
"We did not order anyone to close; they are free to work or close," he said.
On February 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial anti-homosexuality bill into law, which calls for harsh penalties for homosexual acts. First offenders can be jailed for up to 14 years if convicted, while repeat offenders can be imprisoned for life.
The law also penalizes anyone who fails to report cases of homosexuality.
Under the law, anyone who acts as an accomplice – or attempts to promote or abet homosexuality or related practices – faces imprisonment for five to seven years or a $4000 fine.
The law also states that, if a corporate body, business, association or NGO is convicted, its license to operate shall be revoked and the director, proprietor or promoter of the offending entity shall be liable, on conviction, to seven years behind bars.
The MUWRP, which has operated in Uganda since 2002, conducts research into the Ebola virus, Marburg disease and HIV. One of the project's stated aims is to develop vaccines for these diseases.
The project is fully funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Department of Defense.Last Mod: 05 Nisan 2014, 11:11