, BLANTYRE, May 30 – A Malawian gay couple granted a presidential pardon for a 14 year jail sentence were at their separate home villages after being released from prison, a local underground gay movement said Sunday.
"They were taken back to their homes last night by prison authorities," Gift Trapence, director of the Centre for the development of the People (CEDEP) which paid the couple\’s legal fees, told AFP.
"The prison authorities told them they had been given instruction from above that they should take them to their respective homes."
Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika on Saturday announced the pardon and release of Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, and Steven Monjeza, 26, from an internationally condemned jailing for buggery and indecent acts.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and most of Africa.
The announcement came after Mutharika met with United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, who called on Malawi\’s parliament to change the country\’s laws.
Trapence said authorities had deliberately sent the couple — who were jailed at different prisons — to their villages near Blantyre to "avoid hostility towards them by the public".
"They were warmly welcomed by their respective relatives," he said, saying that he not yet talked to the couple.
The public taunted and booed the couple every time they appeared in court in Blantyre following their December 28 arrest after a traditional wedding ceremony, the first same-sex union in Malawi.
Lawyer Mauya Msuku said he was yet to see the freed couple. "They need a rest, but I am glad its over now."
The couple were sentenced to 14 years with hard labour on May 20.