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Malawi Gay prisoner seriously ill
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Malawi Gay prisoner seriously ill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Steven Monjeza, husband of Transgender Tiwonge Chimbalanga, has fallen seriously ill in prison, according to British Gay activist Peter Tatchell.

Monjeza and Chimbalanga have been held in Malawi's notorious Chichili prison since they were arrested the day after their wedding in December.

Tatchell, who has followed their case from the beginning, said on April 12 that Monjeza has been vomiting, coughing, and suffering from pain and pressure in his chest for the last 11 days.

"He looks very ill and has lost weight," Tatchell said. He also reported that his Malawi sources believe that Monjeza needs urgent hospital care.

"The prison authorities have failed to give Steven proper treatment, or even sufficient painkillers. His painkillers ran out on 10 April," said Tatchell.

"My informant says Mr. Monjeza urgently needs to go to hospital for a full medical examination and treatment. His health is likely to deteriorate further unless he gets swift medical care," Tatchell added.

"He has been held on remand in an overcrowded, squalid cell for over three months, without proper food, sanitation, or medical care."

According to Tatchell, Chichili prison was built to house 800 inmates, but now holds 2,000.

"Toilet and shower facilities are deficient. Mr. Monjeza receives only two meals a day. It is always the same maize porridge with beans, which has low nutritional value," Tatchell said.

"Requests by Mr. Monjeza and Mr. Chimbalanga for bail have been turned down, even though people convicted of violent assaults, even murder, have been previously granted bail. It looks like they are being singled out for special victimization," Tatchell concluded.

The law under which they have been charged with "gross indecency" dates to the colonial period, when Malawi was under British rule. If convicted, they could be sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Amnesty International considers the pair prisoners of conscience and has called for their unconditional release.

Tatchell issued an international call for concerned people to call the Malawian embassies in their countries to demand immediate medical care for Monjeza.

Malawi's embassy in Washington, D.C. can be reached at 202-721-0270.

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