Zambia frees jailed gay couple as part of prison amnesty

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A Zambian couple jailed for homosexuality in 2019 were freed this week as part of an amnesty for convicted prisoners to mark Africa Freedom Day, a government gazette said.

Japhet Chataba, 39, and Steven Samba, 31, were both found guilty of "performing unnatural acts" and sentenced to 15 years in prison in November last year.

Their names were among the 2,984 prisoners pardoned by President Edgar Lungu as part of Africa Freedom Day celebrations on Monday.

The pair's conviction had sparked a diplomatic row with US ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, who said he was "horrified" by the judgement.

Foote was accused of "questioning the constitution" and recalled to the US last December after Lungu declared him persona non grata.

Chataba and Samba were arrested while on holiday in the northern town of Kapiri Mposhi in August 2017, after a hotel employee said she spotted them through a window having sex.

Same-sex relationships are outlawed in Zambia and punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

The conservative southern African nation has long resisted international calls to lift its anti-gay laws, despite pressure from donor countries that provide essential aid.

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