Malawi Gay Trial Prisoners Speak Out

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Tiwonge and Steven are urging continued protests to "get our release and the dropping of charges by the Malawi government."

[Global: Malawi]

Two men on trial on charges of homosexuality in Malawi, Steven Monjeza 26 and Tiwonge Chimbalanga 20, have issued a defiant message from their prison cell,  affirming their love for each other and thanking their supporters in Malawi and
worldwide.

Tiwonge said: "I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless."

"We have come a long way and even if our family relatives are not happy, I will not and never stop loving Tiwonge," said Steven.

The two men's messages were relayed from inside Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, Malawi, to Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage! in London, England.

Tiwonge and Steven have stressed their gratitude for the support they have received from fellow Malawians and from people around the world: "We are thankful for the people who have rallied behind us during this difficult time. We are grateful to the people who visit and support us, which really makes us feel to be members of a human family; otherwise we would feel condemned," said Tiwonge.

Steven added: "All the support is well appreciated. We are grateful to everybody who is doing this for us. May people please continue the commendable job. Keep sending some small contribution. The money you send to us is so valuable and it
makes such a huge difference between life and death, as prison life is very difficult. With the money we are able to buy some extra food to supplement our intake of the much needed vitamins and proteins."

Peter Tatchell expressed his admiration of the two men: "Steven and Tiwonge are showing immense fortitude and courage. They declared their love in a society where many people - not all - are very intolerant and homophobic. This was a very brave thing to do. Although suffering in prison, they are unbowed. They continue to maintain their love and affirm their human right to be treated with dignity and respect," said Peter Tatchell.

"They have taken a pioneering stand for the right to love. They love each other, have harmed no one and believe that love should not be a crime. It is nobody's business what they do in the privacy of their own home. There is no evidence that they have committed any crime under Malawian law. They should not be on trial or in prison. Although not convicted of an offence, they have already spent four months behind bars.

"OutRage! is supporting Steven and Tiwonge. For the last three months, we have arranged extra food to supplement the men's meagre, poor quality prison rations.

"We pay tribute to the other people and organisations who are giving legal and medical assistance to the detained men. This is a huge help. Steven and Tiwonge have asked me to communicate their appreciation," said Mr Tatchell.

Until quite recently Steven and Tiwonge did not realise that they had been adopted as Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty International. When this news was relayed to them in prison they were, to quote one source: "Very happy with the effort made
by Amnesty International to accord them this status. They offer their thanks to Amnesty."

Tiwonge and Steven have also expressed appreciation for the protest on their behalf in London on 22 March.

The two men thanked London-based African and British activists who have lobbied the Malawian Ambassador and the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Human Rights Unit to seek their release and to secure medical treatment for Steven.

Steven's condition has stabilised but he remains very ill. He is thin and weak and has jaundiced eyes, according to an eye-witness who saw him last weekend. Tiwonge and Steven are urging continued protests to "get our release and the dropping
of charges by the Malawi government."

Show them you care. Send a letter or postcard of support to Steven and Tiwonge: Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, Prisoners, Chichiri Prison, P.O.Box 30117, Blantyre 3, Malawi

See photos of the protest here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/sets/72157623672689772/

See videos of the protest here:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Malawi+protest+london&aq=f
Further information: Peter Tatchell + 44 (0)207 403 1790


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