Posted: May 29, 2010 in WORLD NEWZ

Malawi’s president, Bingu wa Mutharika, on Saturday pardoned a gay couple who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison after their conviction on charges of unnatural acts and gross indecency.

Their sentence, the maximum penalty allowed, was a consequence of the couple’s holding a traditional engagement ceremony in an insular nation where homosexuality is largely seen as nonexistent or something that must be suppressed.

The case had drawn international attention as another example of the broad antigay sentiment in Africa and was condemned by human rights groups worldwide.

“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws; however, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions,” Mr. wa Mutharika said after meeting with the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, here in Malawi’s capital.

“I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this,” he added.

Last month, Mr. wa Mutharika was quoted as calling homosexuality “evil and bad before the eyes of God” and something “we Malawians just do not do.”

Mr. Ban was to address Malawi’s National Assembly later on Saturday, and was expected to ask the legislators to change the laws on homosexuality.

The couple, Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 33, were arrested Dec. 28, two days after they threw themselves an engagement party at the Blantyre lodge where Mr. Chimbalanga worked as a cook and a housekeeper, referring to himself as “Auntie Tiwo” and insisting that he was a woman.

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