Zambia pardons nearly 3,000 prisoners, gay couple inclusive

Home Affairs Minister, Stephen Kampyongo said among the pardoned under the President’s prerogative of mercy, 155 are females while 2, 829 are males.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu gives a press briefing on July 6, 2017 at the Zambian State House in Lusaka. – Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Thursday justified invoking a state of emergency by alleging that opposition parties were behind a string of arson attacks intended “to create terror and panic”. Lungu denied that he was establishing a dictatorship in Zambia, a relatively stable country in recent years, and said his political rivals were trying to overturn last year’s election results. (Photo by DAWOOD SALIM / AFP)

Nearly 3,000 prisoners including a gay couple have been pardoned by Zambian president Edgar Lungu.

Home Affairs Minister, Stephen Kampyongo said among the pardoned under the President’s prerogative of mercy, 155 are female while 2, 829 are male.

Kampyongo said the release of the prisoners leaves countrywide inmate population at 19, 248.

The Minister said the action by President Lungu is in accordance with article 97 of the constitution of Zambia which provides for Presidential pardon and substitution of severe punishment imposed on convicted persons.

The action was an effort to further decongest correctional facilities due to the COVID-19 threat, Kampyongo said.

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His Ministry engaged the Director of Public Prosecution to consider giving bail or outright discharge to over 4,330 unconvicted inmates charged with miner cases and a total of 2, 719 unconvicted persons were granted unconditional bail, Lusaka Times reported.

The pardoned gay couple were sentenced to 15 years in prison in November under colonial-era sodomy laws in a case that caused a diplomatic row with the United States.

Japhet Chataba, 39, and Steven Sambo, 31, were among the freed inmates. A Lusaka High Court judge had sentenced them to 15 years in prison under laws that forbid sex between couples “against the order of nature”.

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The case drew criticism from then U.S. ambassador Daniel Foote, who said the sentence was too harsh and could damage Zambia’s reputation. Washington later withdrew Foote following the row with Zambian authorities over the issue.

Over the past decade, several African countries have come into conflict over LGBT rights with Western countries, many of who are major aid donors.

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