Two Malawian gay men arrested in December expected to hear a verdict in their case today, but the judge delayed his ruling and agreed to allow the defence to call witnesses, according to reports.
"Riot police escorted Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20,
in handcuffs into the small courtroom, which was packed with gay
activists, journalists and diplomats. Police pushed back a crowd of about 50 other people outside the court clamouring to get inside." (read more)
The case is expected to proceed in April, reports the BBC.
Monjeza and Chimbalanga held a symbolic engagement ceremony on Dec 26, 2009 and were
arrested soon after. The two men were
charged with "unnatural practices between males and gross public
indecency," and they face up to 14 years in prison. The men have been held in custody since their arrest.
The Dec 28, 2009 issue of Malawian newspaper the Nation. Pictured: Monjeza (left) and Chimbalanga (right).
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is calling for the release of the couple, and the repeal of Malawi's laws against homosexuality. The IGLHRC says the arrests, prolonged and arbitrary pre-trial detention, and the subsequent mistreatment of Monjeza and Chimbalanga while incarcerated — including being subjected to forced anal examinations to "confirm" sodomy charges — violate their rights under the Malawian Constitution.
"This ruling is the most recent in a line of deeply troubling decisions and actions by the Malawian authorities in this case, including the decision to deny bail to Steven and Tiwonge, claiming that their continued incarceration is for their own safety," says the IGLHRC's Southern Africa Program staffer Chivuli Ukwimi.
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