Malawi denies bail to men arrested for gay wedding

BLANTYRE Mon Jan 4, 2010 3:18pm EST

1 of 2. Steven Monjeza (L) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga sit in a pick-up truck before appearing at a magistrate court in Blantyre January 4, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Eldson Chagara

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BLANTYRE (Reuters) - A court in Malawi on Monday denied bail to two men arrested last week on charges of public indecency after becoming the first gay couple to marry in a country were homosexuality is illegal.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were married in a traditional but symbolic ceremony in southern Malawi last month, attracting hundreds of curious onlookers.

Homosexuality is banned in the conservative southern African state and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

On Monday magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa told a packed court that he could not grant the couple bail and said, saying the ruling was for their own protection.

"The public out there is angry with them," Usiwausiwa said.

Government prosecutors had asked the court to detain the couple for a longer period to allow for more investigations.

Police said the two men had been taken for medical tests to prove whether they had intercourse.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Noah Barkin)

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