Malawi

    A judge in Malawi says that two gay men arrested in December after getting engaged have a case to answer. A lawyer said the couple would now call defense witnesses. Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, and Steven Monjeza, 26, deny charges of gross indecency. They have now spent almost three months in custody in what is being seen as a test case for gay rights in Malawi. The judge said a full trial would proceed in April. Homosexual acts carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. But the men’s lawyers have argued that their constitutional rights are being violated. The courtroom was packed for the hearing - the first stage in the legal process. About 50 people were reportedly unable to get in. “The court has established a prima facie case against the accused persons,” said magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa. The BBC’s Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre says the two men looked relaxed during the proceedings. They waved to hundreds of on-lookers outside court as they were driven back to the city’s Chichiri Prison. (BBC)

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