By Violet Gonda
27 May 2010
The two members of the gay rights group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, who were arrested last week after a raid on their offices, were finally released on $200 bail each on Thursday by a magistrate’s court.
Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi, who are facing charges of ‘insulting the office of the President’ and for allegedly possessing ‘pornographic material’ are expected back in court for their remand hearing on June 10th.
Lawyer David Hofisi said they also filed an urgent High Court application to see if the long period they stayed in custody was lawful, and the State now has 10 working days to file opposing papers.
Hofisi told SW Radio Africa that Chademana and Muhambi accuse the police of using torture and beatings to try and extract information about their organisation’s membership.
The lawyer said: “We are working with our clients so that they can be medically examined so that we can pursue an action against the people who were responsible for the beatings and torture.”
Homosexuality is not illegal in Zimbabwe but the ‘act’ of sodomy is criminalised. Human rights lawyers say there is also no constitutional guarantee to protect gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe.
The police, who claim were working on a tip off, say they confiscated images and a booklet that amount to articles that are indecent or obscene in terms of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act. But the defence lawyer said the police have failed to provide a ‘comprehensive list of all the materials that they claim to have confiscated from the GALZ offices’.
In opposing bail on Thursday the State unsuccessfully told the court that the GALZ officials were in possession of articles which are against the natural order of things and that the articles were ‘abhorrent to our society’ and therefore it would not be ideal for the two to be granted bail.
Hofisi said: “It was in response to this that the magistrate was very extensive in his judgement, because he went as far as to point out how the South African jurisdiction is more liberal, whereas the Malawian jurisdiction is more conservative and harsh. The magistrate said the court itself would not be sucked into an argument based on morality but will only stick to the legal issues in question.”