Amnesty applauds acquittal of gay activist

gayHARARE Amnesty International has welcomed a Zimbabwean court's decision to acquit a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist charged with possession of pornographic materials.

Ellen Chademana, an administrative assistant with the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), was acquitted by a magistrate’s court in Harare last Thursday.

Charges levelled against Chademana arose when police armed with a search warrant on May 21 2010 ransacked the GALZ offices alleging that the organisation was in possession of dangerous drugs and pornographic material.

She was subsequently arrested and detained for seven days together with a colleague Ignatius Mhambi, who was also facing similar charges but was also acquitted.

Chademana and other staff members of GALZ have faced repeated harassment for carrying out legitimate work to protect the rights of Zimbabwe’s LGBT community.

“Though delighted with her acquittal we continue to urge the unity government and police to end the persistent harassment of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe,” said Amnesty Internationals Michelle Kagari.

Chademana told Amnesty that she was happy with the judgement but that she was now worried about her security.

The night before the court judgement last week, police visited the GALZ offices and demanded entry by threatening the security personnel with arrest.

“This was obviously an act of intimidation by the police and an abuse of their authority,” said Kagari.

The Amnesty official said the Zimbabwean police must acknowledge the role of all LGBT rights defenders by putting an end to their harassment and ensuring their protection and security.

President Robert Mugabe is on record as describing gays and lesbians as worse than dogs and has vigorously campaigned through his Zanu (PF) party for the exclusion of gay rights from a new Constitution currently being drafted.

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