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Malawi to hold ‘indecency’ trial

Two men in Malawi will stand trial early this month on charges of “gross indecency.”

Their alleged crime was engaging in same-sex sex.

A Malawi judge delayed his verdict in the case in late March, prompting protests from human rights organizations around the world. The judge’s action set the case for a hearing in April, and further delayed any release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who have been denied bail since late December.

Monjeza, 26, and Chimbalanga, 20, have been detained in maximum-security Chichiri prison in Blantyre since police arrested them Dec. 28, 2009, following their engagement ceremony in Chirimba township.

“The trial of these men, purely on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation, is a gross violation of their rights to freedom of conscience, expression and privacy,” said Veronique Aubert, deputy Africa director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty alleged that while in police custody, Chimbalanga has been repeatedly subjected to forced medical examinations to determine whether the two men consummated their relationship.

Human rights groups also have received reports that the men were beaten in prison.

Amnesty considers Monjeza and Chimbalanga to be prisoners of conscience and it considers Malawi to be in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – both treaties the nation has signed.

Malawi is legally bound by these treaties to respect and protect freedom of conscience, expression and the right to privacy, without discrimination on the grounds of real or perceived sexual orientation,” Aubert said.

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