A Ugandan LGBT activist who was persecuted for his homosexuality in his homeland has been granted asylum in the U.S.
Cambridge resident John "Longjones" Abdallah Wambere said he was "overwhelmed" by the news. Members of his country's LGBT community have the been the victims of political and physical attacks. Homosexuality is currently illegal in Uganda under an antiquated law that criminalizes "unnatural offenses."
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Ugandan recently passed a bill called "Anti-Homosexuality Act."That law criminalized a broad range of offenses and imposed severe penalties ranging from seven years in jail to life imprisonment. While the country's top court have struck down the law on technical grounds, lawmakers have vowed to re-introduce it.
"I must say that I am blessed, but there are many stories out there," said Wambere. "I call upon everyone who helped me to continue to support LGBTI people around the world and all asylum seekers in the U.S. And my thoughts are with Uganda; I have sleepless nights while I worry about my community there."
Wambere, a cofounder of LGBT advocacy group Spectrum Uganda Initiatives, has been in the U.S. since February and filed for asylum on May 6,2014, according to the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
Back home, he was outed as gay by the media and received death threats. He was arrested, evicted and beaten up. Under the act that has since been struck, he would have faced life imprisonment, according to GLAD. If he returns, he runs the risk of arrest.
The granting of asylum, according to one GLAD attorney, may have saved his life.
"Asylum is a life-saving system that protects vulnerable members of the LGBTI community forced to flee places like Uganda, Russia and Jamaica, where it is fundamentally unsafe to be out," said Janson Wu, a GLAD senior staff attorney.
The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services recommended his asylum application for approval, pending a routine security check.