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Malawi Gay Couple's Lawyers Plot Strategies for Next Month's Trial

  • James Butty

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza are taken into custody after celebrating their engagement (photo by Lameck Masina)

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza are taken into custody after celebrating their engagement (photo by Lameck Masina)

Defense lawyer Mauya Msuku says they are considering three or four options including the couple themselves testifying or remaining silent

Lawyers for the Malawi gay couple jailed since December last year for holding a gay engagement ceremony said they are studying the evidence against their clients to prepare for the April sixth trial.

A Malawi judge Monday ruled that prosecutors have presented sufficient evidence to show that the couple, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza might have committed gross indecency.

Mauya Msuku, one of the couple's lawyers said his clients are weighing whether to testify on their own behalf or not.

“There are three or four options available. They might themselves testify and call witnesses, or they might choose just to testify themselves and never call witnesses, or they might choose only to call witnesses and never testify themselves; or they might choose to remain silent, never call witnesses and testify,” he said.

Human rights groups are pressuring Malawi's government to drop the charges and repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality.

Some Western countries have threatened to reduce aid to Malawi because of the case.

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika and current African Union chairman

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika and current African Union chairman

But Malawi church leaders said last week the government should resist the pressure and maintain the current laws.

Msuku said what matters is the legality of the government’s case and not the church’s opinion.

“Whether the accused are guilty or not is not dependent on the opinion of a particular grouping or particular sector of society. It’s really about what the law says and our view is despite whatever opinion a particular sector of society thinks, we don’t think it’s relevant to the case,” Msuku said.

He said no one has threatened him for defending the gay couple despite the fact that it seems most Malawians are against homosexuality.

“I’m not so sure that the majority of Malawians are against it (homosexuality), but probably you might say those people who have access to the media maybe are against it because sometimes the opinion of the people which is heard are the opinions of those people have the platform. And that may not be reflective of the majority thinks,” he said.

Msuku said from the defense point of view the case against the gay couple is not as serious as it seems because, according to him, it is not the worst heinous offense under Malawian law.

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