Armed police stormed a gay pride event in Uganda, arresting more than a dozen people during what was described as a violent and abusive raid, activists said Friday.
Uganda is one of 36 countries in Africa where homosexuality is illegal. Anyone found to have had a same-sex relationship can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
Two rights activists told NBC News on Friday that at least 10 armed police officers raided the nightclub in the capital Kampala where the gay-pride party took place Thursday night.
One of the activists put the number arrested at 16 — both other estimates ranged from 15 to 25.
"It was a terrible experience to see what people went through, to see what police were doing," said Clare Byarugaba, an LGBTQ activist with non-profit human rights group Chapter 4 Uganda. "It was very disturbing. I am trying to remain strong."
Both Byarugaba and Pepe Onziema — a programs director for non-governmental organization Sexual Minorities Uganda — said that officers subjected them to physical and verbal abuse.
"When they originally picked us up they said a lot of homophobic things and told us we were immoral," Onziema told NBC News by phone. "One of the officers slapped me in the face and ordered for me to be cuffed."
Byarugaba said that one person's legs were broken. "They were kicking people, undressing people, pulling people and throwing them out of the venue," Byarugaba added.
Local police spokesman Kayima Emilian told Reuters that officers dispersed the gathering because organizers failed to notify them about the event, and because it was likely to promote homosexuality.
"A large group of people gathering? They need to tell police," Emilian told the news agency. "But also they were likely to engage in promoting gay sex, which is illegal in Uganda."