Monday, January 4, 2010

Blantyre Magistrates Court denies gays bail

The Blantyre Magistrates Court on Monday refused to grant Malawian gays arrested after staging the country’s first public same-sex engagement bail, bowing to prosecutors demands to give the state more powers to carry out medical examinations, among other factors.
First Grade Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa told crammed court the court wanted to give the state the benefit of the doubt by allowing it 10 more days of investigations, as opposed to the requested 14, allowing prosecutors to carry out a medical examination on Steven Monjeza Soko and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.
State prosecutors say the medical examination is crucial to their circumstantial evidence, but human rights activists have questioned the decision, saying it was tantamount to forcing people to join research initiatives or medical programmes.
Throngs of people sang songs of redicule to Monjeza Soko and Chimbalanga in the court, and the two seemed less at ease. The court was supposed to be their place of refuse and shelter from a highly homophobic society.
Both Malawi Gay Rights Movement (Magrim) Publicity Secretary, Wongani Phiri, and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapeace have expressed concern over the way Malawians are treating the two.
Women poked fun and ridiculed the two when they were boarding a police vehicle, calling them all sorts of names, including ‘mentally-disturbed devils”.
Phiri says Magrim fears that, with people openly opposing the two including within court premises, they may not be subjected to a fair trial.
However, Malawi’s judiciary has a reputation for fairness and good-dealing with suspects, a development that has at times put it at loggerheads with ruling officials.
Monjeza Soko and Chimbalanga’s case has attracted a lot of attention, with people differing in opinions over the prospects of legalizing homosexuality.
Others feel there is no problem with that while the church community has ganged up against such a decision, openly calling for officials to punish the two sternly.

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