A gay Malawi couple jailed since late December for holding an engagement ceremony expected to hear a verdict in their case today, but the judge delayed the verdict, told the couple they have a case to answer, and agreed to allow the defense to bring witnesses, according to reports.
News 24: "Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa, who had been expected to deliver his verdict during the hearing, said prosecutors had established a case against the couple but agreed to allow defence lawyers to call witnesses.
'The court has established a prima facie case against the accused persons,' the judge told the courtroom, adding that the couple could call their witnesses from April 3.
'The accused will want to defend themselves and call their own witnesses,' the couple's lawyer Oswald Ntuwakale told AFP.
The couple, who face up to 14 years in jail, has already argued that their arrest violates their freedom of conscience."
The courtroom was packed with activists, journalists, and reporters, according to News 24, and dozens "clamoured" outside.
"Mukasa, an Ugandan gay rights activist, said he expected pastors as men of God to receive him with compassion and understanding but he was disappointed at the church leaders' violent reaction to their presence.
'They literally chased us from the conference despite being invited,' he said. A Zambia openly gay Christian Chivuli Ukwimi and a South African gay pastor, the Reverend Pieter Oberholzer, were also invited to the meeting and were equally hounded away. MCC, a grouping of protestant churches in Malawi, organised the meeting in the southern resort town of Mangochi 'to understand contemporary issues like homosexuality and come up with a common stand as churches,' according to MCC Chairman Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe. But despite being invited, the presence of the three openly gay Christians reviled most of the assembled pastors, with some of them dubbing them 'sinners and demons'."