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Malawi Court Gives Gay Couple Maximum Sentence

A Malawi judge has given the maximum sentence of 14 years to a gay couple convicted of "gross indecency" and unnatural acts.

The judge said Thursday at the Blantyre court he gave the harsh sentence in the hopes it would deter other Malawians from copying their "horrible example."

It was the same judge, Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa, who convicted the two men on Tuesday.

Twenty-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga and 26-year-old Steven Monjeza were arrested in December after holding a symbolic wedding.

Homosexuality is considered taboo in most traditional African societies and is illegal in many African countries.

After the conviction, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the United States was deeply disappointed in the conviction. He said Malawi's government must respect the human rights of all of its citizens.

Rights group Amnesty International also condemned the ruling and called on Malawian authorities to immediately release the men.

Some Western countries have threatened to review their aid programs to Malawi because of the case. However, church leaders in Malawi have urged the government to maintain the current laws.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.