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No bail; 6 months in Zambian prison on gay charges

A Zambian judge yesterday refused to grant bail to two young Zambian men who have been imprisoned for six months without a conviction on charges of homosexual activity.

In chains, Philip Mubiana and James Mwape enter the Kapiri Mposhi courtroom.
In chains, Philip Mubiana (shown) and James Mwape enter the courtroom during an earlier hearing.

Activists monitoring the legal proceedings against Philip Mubiana and James Mwape of rural Kapiri Mposhi reported that Kabwe High Court Judge Sikazwe rejected an appeal for immediate bail. Sikazwe said he will await a decision by the magistrate presiding over the men’s trial about objections raised by the defense. That decision is currently scheduled for Dec. 5, but it could be delayed.

“It is blatantly clear that the decisions being made by the Zambian judicial system in this case are being influenced by external factors,” activists commented.

Mubiana and Mwape are victims of continuing legal delays and the country’s public campaign against homosexuals. Their plight has not been alleviated by the Zambian First Lady’s recent appeal for a forthright discussion of homosexuality in Zambia.

Activists expressed fears that the trial will be unfair. If convicted, the defendants would face prison sentences of 15 years to life.

In the trial, the defense has raised objections about testimony by a medical practitioner who described his anal examinations of the defendants. Sikazwe said he would await a ruling on those objections by the trial’s presiding magistrate, John Mbuzi, before making a ruling on the bail appeal. That appeal went to the High Court after a lower court refused bail for the two men.

They have been detained since early May.

View of the Mpima remand prison, where the defendants are being held.
Mpima maximum security prison

Immediately after the high court hearing, the defendants were returned to cells in the crowded Kapiri jail. They had been scheduled to go back to the Mpima maximum-security prison, but the transport vehicle broke down, activists said.

Before the Nov. 8 bail hearing got under way, the defense learned of a prosecution motion made in August but never disclosed to the defense.

“The defense was ambushed when they discovered that an opposing submission from the Prosecution was filed before the court,” observers said.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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