Zambian police were ordered to arrest AIDS activist

Paul Kasonkomona (Photo courtesy of Muvi TV)
Paul Kasonkomona (Photo courtesy of Muvi TV)

A Zambian police officer who arrested AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona in April revealed yesterday that he and his colleagues had made the arrest under orders and did not know what Kasonkomona had said on TV that led to the arrest.

The officer believed that Kasonkomona had appealed for Zambia to allow gay marriages, but a review of the TV interview proved that to be false.

Kasonkomona is on trial for allegedly “soliciting for immoral purposes in a public place” when he said local Muvi TV that Zambia should repeal its law against same-sex activity because the law hampers the fight against AIDS.

Activists like Kasonkomona say that anti-gay laws lead to increased levels of HIV and AIDS by making LGBT people fearful of acknowledging their sexual orientation, even to a doctor.

Supporters of Kasonkomona reported:

In the previous court proceedings, the witness, one the three Law enforcement officers who executed the arrest claimed that the accused had been advocating for gay marriages in Zambia, however when the defense had the video clip played, it was proved that the accused had not advocated for gay marriages in Zambia during the programme.

To that effect, the police officer was requested to retract his statement.

Further, during cross examination, the defense also established that at no point had the police officer even watched the video clip and the arrest was based solely after they were tipped off by members of the public that the accused was planning to go on air and advocate for gay rights.

Secondly, during the arrest, it was discovered that the three arresting officers had not followed procedure, to the point that they did not even care to take any notes of the interview to determine whether there was any truth in the allegation that amounted to the accused advocating for gay marriages in Zambia. When cornered, the officer further stated that he had been acting on orders.

Finally, because the two state witnesses from Muvi TV had not presented themselves before the Court despite being requested to appear and testify before the Court, the Prosecution asked the judge to adjourn the matter to 27 November 2013 and intend to issue summons to compel the two to testify on that particular date.”

Here is what Kasonkomona said on Muvi TV, as described by Anneke Meerkotter, a lawyer for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which has been helping Kasonkomona:

Paul Kasonkomona (Photo courtesy of Muvi TV)
Paul Kasonkomona (Photo courtesy of Muvi TV)

Kasonkomona made an impassioned plea for recognition of the human rights of all individuals in order to stem HIV transmission. Kasonkomona explained that he had been living with HIV for 15 years – “The last thing I want to see today or tomorrow is a person who is HIV negative today testing HIV positive tomorrow.”

He argued that the abstinence campaign had not resulted in a reduction in HIV incidence, even among heterosexual people, and that every intervention to prevent HIV should be embraced, including decriminalising same-sex sexual practices and improving access to safer sex materials for LGBT persons.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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