Paul Kasonkomona

The Zambian government is appealing a recent court ruling acquitting an activist who was arrested for speaking out in support of LGBT rights on TV.

Last month, the charges against well-know Zambian human rights and HIV activist Paul Kasonkomona were dropped after the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court found that the government had failed to prove its case.

The ruling was described as victory for freedom of expression in the country.

It’s now been confirmed that, despite Magistrate Lameck Ng’ambi noting the importance of free speech in a democracy in his ruling, the Zambian authorities have filed an appeal against the decision.

In a statement issued through its embassy in Lusaka, the US government expressed its “disappointment” at the move.

It urged “the Zambian Government to drop its appeal in this case,” adding that “freedom of speech is a fundamental right to be respected and embraced.”

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which supported Kasonkomona’s legal battle, commented on Twitter that the news was a “step back for freedom of speech in Zambia.”

Kasonkomona was arrested in April last year as he left a Lusaka television studio after making comments on live television supporting the rights of LGBT people and sex workers.

Kasonkomona was charged with violating section 178(g) of the Zambian Penal Code, which criminalises “every person who in any public place solicits for immoral purposes”.

He was jailed for more than three days and was reportedly not allowed access to his HIV medication before being granted bail.

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