http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/292473

Scottish leaders urged to help overturn jailing of Malawi couple

Posted May 25, 2010 by Andrew John
The Scottish government is being urged to use its special relationship with Malawi to help overturn the conviction of two men sentenced to 14 years’ hard labour for being gay.
Protestors demonstrated in support of the couple in London recently
Protestors demonstrated in support of the couple in London recently
Picture: Brett Lock, OutRage!
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, sentenced last week in Blantyre, one of Malawi’s main cities, after a conviction that led to international outrage.
All future aid payments to the Malawi from Scotland should be dependent on reform of human rights there, say human-rights activists.
“Scotland has long-standing ties with Malawi, which is the key recipient of its overseas aid,” says the country’s Herald newspaper. “Holyrood [the parliament] recently pledged £7 million to Scots companies working for the benefit of the Malawian people.”
Activists want Scottish politicians to voice their opposition to Malawi for violations of civil liberties, even if this leads to a diplomatic row.
The gay-pride rally Pride Glasgow, planned for July 7, will see a demonstration on behalf of the two jailed men.
Ross Stevenson, director of Pride Glasgow, is quoted as saying: “We urge the Scottish and UK governments to enter talks with Malawi officials in ensuring that aid and other support given to the country is linked to reform for equalities and human rights and to offer support in doing this.”
Celebrities
And Carl Watt, director of Stonewall Scotland, says: “We would expect MSPs [Members of the Scottish Parliament] and the Scottish government to use our relationship with Malawi to bring pressure to bear, and we very much hope that is what is happening.”
Celebrities have been adding their weight to support for the pair. Among them is Madonna, who adopted two children from Malawi.
“I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi – and around the world – to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all,” she’s quoted as saying.
And Boy George has launched an online campaign, and is said to be trying to persuade Lady Gaga to endorse an online petition, which would be handed to Malawi’s government.