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THE British Government has signaled its willingness to pardon around 50,000 men who were convicted under the same “gross indecency” law used against wartime hero Alan Turing.

Following the Royal pardon granted on Christmas Eve to Turing, the UK Home Office told Gay Star News that the remaining 50,000 convictions could be reconsidered by submitting a formal application:

The Government has taken concrete action to allow those affected by this to apply for their convictions to be disregarded and would encourage anyone affected to apply to have these records deleted or disregarded and guarantee that all applications will be considered carefully.

The moment Turing’s pardon was announced on December 24, the Pink Humanist Trust (PTT) issued a statement criticising the Government for not apologising to, or pardoning the 15,000 men still alive who were convicted of “gross indecency”.

In welcoming the pardon, the PTT pointed out that in 2009 thousands of people out their names to an on-line petition calling for the Government to recognise the “consequences of prejudice” that first resulted in Turing’s chemical castration and then his premature death at the age of just 41.

Notable among the petition’s signatories was the well-known atheist and humanist Professor Richard Dawkins who said that this would “send a signal to the world which needs to be sent”, and that Turing might still be alive today if it were not for the repressive, religion-influenced laws which drove him to despair.

The author of The God Delusion, who presented a television programme for Channel 4 on Turing, said the impact of the mathematician’s war work could not be overstated.

Turing arguably made a greater contribution to defeating the Nazis than Eisenhower or Churchill. Thanks to Turing and his ‘Ultra’ colleagues at Bletchley Park, Allied generals in the field were consistently, over long periods of the war, privy to detailed German plans before the German generals had time to implement them.

Dawkins added:

After the war, when Turing’s role was no longer top-secret, he should have been knighted and fêted as a saviour of his nation. Instead, this gentle, stammering, eccentric genius was destroyed, for a ‘crime’, committed in private, which harmed nobody.

Professor Dawkins also called for a permanent financial endowment to support Bletchley Park, where Turing helped break the Nazi Enigma code.

PTT secretary George Broadhead commented:

It was great to have such a prominent atheist and humanist as Richard Dawkins supporting the campaign for Turing to be pardoned and it is significant that he identified religious-influenced laws as being to blame for Turing’s suicide.

As a gay atheist Alan Turing is a humanist hero and a pardon is long overdue. However, I agree with other LGBT activists that it’s wrong that the many other men convicted of exactly the same offence are not even being given an apology, let alone a pardon.

Meanwhile London-based activist Peter Tatchell wants the government to go a step further than their pardon. He claims the British Secret Service has not been completely ruled out as suspects in Turing’s death, and so wants an inquest into his death.

He allegedly committed suicide via cyanide poisoning at the age of 41 in 1954, two years after being convicted . At the time, homosexuality was still a crime in Britain. Instead of jail time, Turing opted for female hormone treatment, otherwise known as chemical castration.

A UK Home Office representative said Turing was pardoned because an application was submitted on his behalf, and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.

While the possibility exists for conviction pardons on decriminalized offences, The UK Home Office told GSN the government would be responding to Tatchell’s inquest demand in due course, as authorities have not been contacted.

Tatchell calls the original inquest into Turing’s death "inadequate" and "perfunctory", claiming the apple Turing laced with cyanide that caused Turing’s death was never tested for cyanide.

‘Although there is no evidence that Turing was murdered by state agents, the fact that this possibility has never been investigated is a major failing.

 

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