The two men were arrested after being reported to the police by one of Mubiana’s relatives.
The basis for the acquittal is that the state had failed to prove its case. Magistrate Mbuzi said the prosecution failed to give proof that the two had engaged in homosexuality, finding that the only evidence brought by the State was hearsay.
Philip Mubiana and James Mwape,both 21, of Ndeke compound in Kapiri Mposhi , had been held since May 2013 and faced up to 15 years in jail if convicted.
The case had drawn the attention of activists around the world as well as human rights groups and foreign governments.
There has been a strong reaction by local residents in the small town of Kapiri Mposhi, located 125 miles north of Lusaka, were the trial took place, who are upset that the west is showing solidarity with the two men.
The defendants were represented by former Solicitor General State Counsel Sunday Nkonde.
One young Zambian human rights defender, Chalwe Ranney told me:
“I think, at this moment in time,we want to to thank the lawyers SBN that tirelessly worked hard on the case to ensure that James and Phillip had the right to a fair and steady trail, in court without prejudice or influence, despite the fact they had been detained one year behind bars without been accorded their right to apply for bail. Whilst we welcome the ruling it’s important to note that violations towards LGBT persons in Zambia are still being perpetrated at the hands of both state and non state actors. The victory is far from being won. There are so many cases that are now before that courts, were unfortunately persons accused if having committed “Sodomy”, have no legal representation, unlike Phillip and James. Most of them are being chased from their homes, with many cases of blackmail and extortion. Religious leaders, under the umbrella of “Zambia being a Christian nation,” continue to call for the persecution of LGBT persons.”
In February, another Zambian magistrate acquitted the well known gay rights activist, Paul Kasonkomona, on charges of promoting homosexuality after concluding that the prosecution failed to prove its case.
Unfortunately the two young men, who have been through a terrible ordeal, have had their names and faces exposed to Zambians, who would show up regularly to Court to insist on so called “justice” against the men. One wonders how things will be now for these two men. Their lives are clearly in danger by virtue of the perception that they are gay, as created by this trial, which was nothing more than a State sanctioned “outing.”