(Photo: Brett Lock, OutRage!)

Human rights campaigners have held a protest in London against the continued detention of a gay couple in Malawi.

African and British activists rallied outside the Commonwealth’s head quarters on Monday, protesting against the prosecution and imprisonment of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga on charges of homosexuality.

They also slammed the Commonwealth for its failure to condemn the men’s arrest and detention in Chichiri prison.

The keynote speaker at the protest was Edi Phiri, a gay Malawian who fled his country after he was badly beaten and received death threats.

“I urge my President and government to intervene to release Steven and Tiwonge. These two men don’t deserve the way they are suffering in jail,” said Phiri.

“The delay in the trial and the postponed verdict is a sign that the government and judiciary are split. Some officials want to convict and others don’t. They keep on putting off the verdict.”

He went on to add: “Malawi’s anti-gay laws are not African. They were imposed by the British colonisers nearly two centuries ago.”

Similar concerns were echoed by protest coordinator, Peter Tatchell, of the London-based LGBT human rights group OutRage!:

“The judge has refused Tiwonge and Steven bail. Imprisoning them for three months without a verdict is an abuse of law and a violation of their right to a swift and fair trial. These men are innocent until proven guilty. So why are they in prison?” he asked.

The two men will face a full trial in April on charges of “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices between males”. They could receive a sentence of up to 14 years in jail if found guilty.

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