BY Andrew Clunis

Jamaican court clears reggae megastar Buju Banton of assaulting six gay men
Reggae star Buju Banton is in high spirits after being cleared of assault charges in a Kingston court last week.

The controversial DJ was answering charges related to the alleged beating of a group of homosexual men at premises near his recording studio in Kingston, in 2004. The judge dismissed the charges against the star and three other men after the six complainants failed to make a credible case in court.

Speaking to The Voice from his Kingston Jamaica base shortly after the decision Buju Banton said he was overwhelmed to have been cleared. “I am happy to have been exonerated from these charges. I give thanks to know that justice was served because I never beat anyone.”

Buju’s manager Donovan Germain is demanding an apology from agencies and individuals who he said conspired to smear Buju’s name.

“I want to know what Amnesty International have to say now,” he said. “They tried to bring pressure upon the police, the Prime Minister and various agencies to try and convict Buju. My advice to them is to make sure things go through the courts before they start their campaigns.”

He said Amnesty International was responsible for the media hype which surrounded Buju’s arrest. “They should now let all the people they mobilised to persecute Buju know that he is innocent. He has never beaten a homosexual.”

Meanwhile, Jamaican gay rights group J-Flag have reacted with

disgust at the verdict. Spokesman Gareth (he does not use his real name for security reasons) said there were many errors with the handling of the case from investigation through to presentation. He said: “We’re gutted but the verdict is not surprising. If gay people are considered less than human there will be no care in investigating crimes against them.

“If cases are poorly investigated there can be no conviction in a court of law. Maybe when Jamaica begins to see us as human beings the police will properly investigate crimes against us that may lead to a conviction and perhaps then people will understand that violence against ‘battyman’ is wrong.”

Peter Tatchell of British gay rights group OutRage was equally condemning of the ruling. He said: “The police took over a year to charge Buju Banton. This delay suggests a half-hearted police investigation. There are serious doubts about the thoroughness of the prosecution. Evidence against Buju Banton was poorly prepared by the police and prosecuting authorities.”

The trial heaped significant financial losses on Buju Banton, estimated to be around £500,000. In 2004 an entire tour was cancelled while last year he had eight shows cancelled.

But Buju Banton has taken it in his stride and wants his fans to know that he’ll be back. He has two albums to be released soon, a dancehall set called Too Bad and a roots reggae collection titled Rasta Got Soul. He said: “I am sorry that my fans have had to endure this ordeal with me and I am hoping that there will be no more uneasy situations.” Buju Banton will be touring the UK in April.

Published: 23 January 2006