Turing family present petition seeking pardons for 49,000 gays

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Alan Turing's work on deciphering the German Enigma codes led to a vital breakthrough against Adolf Hitler

Alan Turing's work on deciphering the German Enigma codes led to a vital breakthrough against Adolf Hitler (AFP Photo/)

London (AFP) - Relatives of wartime codebreaker Alan Turing, subject of Oscar-winning film "The Imitation Game", have handed in a petition calling for the pardoning of 49,000 men prosecuted like him for homosexuality.

More than half a million people -- 523,000 -- from 74 countries signed the petition via website Change.org.

Turing's great-nephew Nevil Hunt, his great-niece Rachel Barnes and her son Thomas, delivered the petition on Monday to 10 Downing Street.

Turing, whose work on deciphering the German Enigma codes led to a vital breakthrough in the war against the Nazis, was convicted in 1952 for gross indecency with a 19-year-old man.

He was chemically castrated and two years later died from cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide.

Turing received a posthumous royal pardon in 2013 and now campaigners want authorities to pardon all men convicted under the law before homosexuality was legalised in 1967.

Barnes from Taunton, said: "I consider it to be fair and just that everybody who was convicted under the Gross Indecency Law is given a pardon. It is illogical that my great uncle has been the only one to be pardoned when so many were convicted of the same crime.

The editor of Attitude Magazine, Matthew Todd, who also visited Downing Street, said: "Generations of gay and bisexual men were forced to live their lives in a state of terror.

"Men convicted of gross indecency were often considered to have brought huge shame on their families and many took their own lives. It's about time the country addressed this appalling part of our history."

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "Unfairly, no pardon has been extended to the tens of thousands of other gay victims - not even to other high profile victims such as Lord Montague and Sir John Gielgud."

Benedict Cumberbatch's Oscar-nominated portrayal of Turing has brought the pioneering scientist's story to a wider audience.

"The Imitation Game" was nominated in eight Oscar categories and at Sunday night's ceremonies in Hollywood won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Rachel Barnes said: "It is really, really exiting that we received an Oscar last night for the screenplay. It's an incredible day for the whole of the Turing family."

Turing led a team decoding messages at Bletchley Park and designed the machine which decrypted German messages, but the work remained secret until many years after the war's end.

The team's work helped shorten the conflict and saved many thousands of lives.

The film follows Turing from his days as a Second World War code breaker at Bletchley Park to his work at Manchester University, where he was hailed as the father of modern computing, and his tragic death.