A Zambian court on Tuesday cleared prominent rights activist Paul Kasonkomona of encouraging homosexuality after he called on live television for gay rights to be recognised.
“The court ruled that Paul is acquitted. It’s a final ruling,” said Anneke Meerkotter, a lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre which provided legal support to Kasonkomona.
The magistrate ruled that the state had failed to prove its case.
“The magistrate was clear, public discussion is important, even on controversial issues that are repulsive to some members of community,” Meerkotter told AFP.
“This is a great victory for freedom of expression. The mood in court was one of great relief. Kasonkomona did not deserve to be arrested for expressing his opinion and the court ruling vindicates his rights.”
Kasonkomona was arrested in April 2013 and charged with soliciting for immoral purposes shortly after he appeared on a live television show where he openly advocated for gay rights in order to address HIV.
Homosexuality is outlawed in Zambia, as in most African countries, and discrimination against gays and lesbians is rife.
The ruling comes a day after Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed off on one of the world’s toughest anti-gay laws which holds that repeat homosexuals should be jailed for life, outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires people to denounce gays.