Zambia frees 2 allegedly gay men after year in prison

Published: July 3, 2014

Zambia detainees Philip Mubiana and James Mwape were acquitted today of charges of violating the Zambian law against homosexual activity, human rights activists report.

They had been in custody since May 5, 2013. They were arrested after family members reported them to police in response to a nationwide appeal to Zambian citizens to inform on alleged homosexuals. The men’s repeated applications for bail had been rejected.

The trial’s presiding judge, Kabwe Principle Resident Magistrate John Mbuzi, ruled that the prosecution had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. He cited deficiencies in the forensic examinations of the defendants. He also noted that police did not find the two men in the act, but only arrested them in response to others’ allegations.

Juliet Mphande, former executive director of the human rights group Friends of Rainka, expressed thanks to the work of the defense team, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and to this blog.

“When I heard the news straight from the courts and heard James’ voice, I broke down,” she wrote.

“We have fought long and hard and this victory does not belong to us but to all Zambia’s sexual diverse and gender variant children.

“Your blog 76 crimes has contributed to saving not one, but two lives in Zambia today.”

Amnesty International called Mbuzi’s action the right decision for the wrong reasons.

“It is appalling that these men have spent over a year in prison awaiting trial charged with something which should not be a crime,” said Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s Zambia researcher.

“To imprison people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation is unjust and a breach of international law. Amnesty International has always regarded these men to be prisoners of conscience.”

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