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Malawi couple pardoned, to be freed

Sun 30 May 2010 In: International News

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has pardoned and ordered the release of a couple who were jailed after getting engaged. The 14 year jail terms for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, for 'gross indecency and unnatural acts', sparked international condemnation and outrage. Mutharika has now ordered their immediate release, a decision which comes as UN head Ban Ki-moon visits the African country. BBC reports Ban hailed the president's decision as "courageous". "This outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist," he said. Ban is now trying to put pressure on parliamentarians to reform anti-homosexuality laws that date back to colonial times. A spokesman for the British Foreign Office has hailed the pardon. "We welcome the announcement by President Mutharika to pardon Mr Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Mr Steven Monjeza," he told AFP. "Britain has a close and strong partnership with Malawi and it is in this spirit that we raised our concerns about these convictions with the government of Malawi." The White House has also applauded the decision, hailing it as a new day for gay rights in Malawi and around the world. Lawyers for Monjeza and Chimbalanga say the pair is likely to be freed by Monday. There had been pressure from human rights groups and aid donors for the men to be released, while Sir Elton John joined Madonna in speaking out against the jailing this weekend. The AIDs campaignerwrote an open letter in The Guardian pleading for the release of the pair.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Sunday, 30th May 2010 - 9:21am

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