January 28, 2010 / 5:59 PM / 9 years ago

Malawi court denies gay couple bail for second time

LILONGWE (Reuters) - Malawi’s High Court refused on Thursday to release on bail a gay couple from a maximum security prison where they have been held for a month, saying it had denied their request for their own safety.

Police arrested Steven Monjeza, 26 and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, in late December for getting engaged in a traditional ceremony. They were charged with unnatural practices between males and gross public indecency under the laws of the southern African nation, where homosexuality is a criminal offence.

“The State fears for applicants’ safety based on the kind of reaction members of the public have demonstrated each time they are brought to court,” Justice Rowland Mbvundula said in the ruling.

The judge observed that the public has been hostile and negative towards the couple since the trial started. This is the second time the courts have denied them bail.

Early this month a magistrate’s court refused to release them on bail on safety grounds.

Their arrest and the subsequent medical tests that they have undergone have irked some right groups in the country.

This week, 34 British members of parliament joined Amnesty International in calling for their unconditional release.

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