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article imageJailed gay couple pardoned by Malawi president

By Andrew John     May 29, 2010 in World
The gay Malawi couple sentenced to 14 years’ hard labour and separated from each other after being jailed have now been freed after the Malawian president met UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
The verdict and sentence on Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, caused international outrage.
They were found guilty of “unnatural acts” and “gross indecency”. They had been in jail since they held an engagement ceremony last December.
In the UK, the human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell condemned the conviction of the couple.
“This is an outrageous verdict. While Steven and Tiwonge freely confirmed their love for each other, there was no credible evidence that they had committed any illegal homosexual acts,” he says. Tatchell has been supporting and advocating for the men since their arrest and detention in December last year.
“The law under which they were convicted is a discriminatory law that only applies to same-sex relations. It is unconstitutional. Article 20 of Malawi’s constitution guarantees equality and non-discrimination. The law in Malawi is not supposed to discriminate,” Tatchell said.
But, after talking with Ban Ki-moon today, Malawi’s president, Bingu wa Mutharika, announced that the couple would be freed.
“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” the president said after the meeting, at Malawi’s State House. “However, as the head of state, I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.
“I have done this on humanitarian grounds, but this does not mean that I support this.”
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