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GLN HOMOPHOBIA & BIGOTRY NEWS

Malawi Update from Peter Tatchell of Britain's OUTrage
LGBT Direct Action Group --

Tiwonge & Steven split up by Malawi authorities

Steven transferred to notorious Zomba prison
Most Malawians say 14 years is too harsh
Lawyers expect appeal hearing at end of June

London and Blantyre - 26 May 2010
GLN permalink 5-26-2010

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

"The decision by the Malawian authorities to to split up jailed lovers, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, is a cruel, malicious and vindictive attempt to cause the couple psychological distress and heartache.

"Steven has been transferred this week to Zomba prison, separating him from his partner, Tiwonge," reports London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the LGBTI human rights group OutRage!, who has been assisting and supporting the couple since their arrest on homosexuality charges last December.

"Previously, the couple were jailed together in Chichiri prison, where Tiwonge remains. Although held in separate cells, in Chichiri they were able to see each other briefly from time to time.

"Now they will have no contact at all. This move will be particularly hard for Steven. Of the two, he is more vulnerable and stressed. Tiwonge, in contrast, is robust and resilient.

"I fear that this separation may have an adverse impact on Steven's mental and physical well-being. He was seriously ill for a month and is still not fully well. His isolation from Tiwonge is likely to be a severe blow to his morale. It could cause his health to relapse.

"Last weekend, just days after they were sentenced to 14 years hard labour on charges of homosexuality, reports from inside Chichiri prison said that both Tiwonge and Steven were cheerful and in good spirits. Despite their harsh sentence, they seemed unbowed and determined to carry on their fight for justice.

"Anecdotal reports suggest that most Malawians think the 14-year jail sentence is too harsh. Even many people who disagree with homosexuality seem to believe it is excessive and disproportionate. Some armed robbers, child sex abusers, rapists and killers get lighter sentences.

"Lawyers for Steven and Tiwonge say their appeal may be heard around the end of June. They suggest that Steven might be returned to Chichiri prison once the appeal process begins, which could be in about four weeks or so.

"The couple's lawyers are optimistic that on appeal to the higher courts the 14 year sentence will be reduced or annulled.

"I hope they are right but I am sceptical, given that the High Court refused to give Steven and Tiwonge bail and refused to rule that their prosecution was unconstitutional. My fear is that the appeal court may reduce the jail term but not revoke it," said Mr Tatchell.

Click HERE for background to the sentence.


ACTION: Support Tiwonge and Steven in prison in Malawi

Four things you can do to support our heroes

Big thanks to everyone who has shown their concern and anger at the outrageous 14-year jail term handed down to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Malawi.

These are four ways you can help:

FIRST
Send a letter or postcard of support to Steven and Tiwonge. In this difficult time, they need to know that people around the world love and support them. Get all your friends to do the same. Lots of letters will send a powerful signal to the government of Malawi that the couple have international support.

Write to:
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, Prisoners, Chichiri Prison
P.O.Box 30117, Chichiri, Blantyre 3, Malawi

SECOND
Sign Madonna's petition which condemns the jailing of Steven and Tiwonge and which calls for equality and human rights:
http://www.raisingmalawi.org/AddYourName

THIRD
Write a letter to your elected political representative. Urge him or her to write a letter of protest to Malawian President and to the Malawian Ambassador in your country.

If you live in the UK:
Email your MP and all your MEPs via this website: www.writetothem.com
Ask your MP and MEPs to protest to the Malawian President and to the Malawi High Commission in London.

FOURTH
Make a donation by post or BACS electronic transfer to the Malawi Defence Campaign, organized the UK-based LGBTI organisation OutRage!

OutRage! will use all money donated to support Tiwonge and Steven with food parcels, medicine, clothes, blankets etc. and to help fund the campaign for their release.

By BACS electronic transfer:
Account name: Outrage
Bank: Alliance and Leicester Commercial Bank, Bootle, Merseyside, GIR
0AA, England, UK
Account number: 77809302
Sort code: 72-00-01
For electronic transfers from overseas (outside the UK), please
ADDITIONALLY quote these codes:
BIC: ALEIGB22
IBAN: GB65ALE1720001778093 02

By cheque:
Write a cheque payable to "OutRage!" and send to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT. Enclose a note giving your name and address and stating that your donation is for the Malawi Defence campaign.

Thanks for your concern and commitment to justice for Tiwonge and Steven.
Solidarity! Peter Tatchell, OutRage! London, UK


Further information: Peter Tatchell 0207 403 1790
www.petertatchell.net
www.outrage.org.uk



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