Renowned Zambian human rights and HIV activist, Paul Kasonkomona, was acquitted today by the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court on charges relating to comments he made on television in support of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
The ruling provides a major boost to freedom of expression in the country said the Southern Africa Litigation Centre in a statement.
“This is a great victory for freedom of expression in Zambia,” said Anneke Meerkotter from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which supported the case. “If speech is stifled through the application of outdated criminal laws, Zambians will find themselves unable to openly discuss and debate some issues of real importance to them.”
In April 2013, Kasonkomona was arrested after he appeared on a Muvi TV programme where he spoke about the need to recognise the rights of vulnerable groups such as LGBT individuals and sex workers in order to comprehensively address the HIV pandemic. He was subsequently charged with the ‘idle and disorderly’ offence of soliciting in a public place for immoral purposes, in terms of section 178(g) of the Penal Code.It was alleged that Kasonkomona, 38 of Chululu Garden Township on April 7, 2013 at Lusaka being a person in a public place namely Muvi TV studios on a programme called “The Assignment” did solicit for moral purposes for homosexuality rights to be respected in Zambia.
Mr.Kasokomona denied soliciting for moral support for homosexual rights to be respected in Zambia amidst claims that he has been unduly and harshly detained by the State.Mr Kasonkomona also sued Attorney General Mumba Malila claiming for punitive damages for false imprisonment by the Zambia Police service.
In a statement of claim filed before the court by his lawyer he stated that he was on second line of treatment of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis but his medication had been disturbed because the medicine was in the hands of the Police
Kasonkomona was represented by Sunday Nkonde SC from SBN Legal Practitioners.