Zambia gay rights activist Paul Kasonkomona acquitted

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Paul Kasonkomona has vowed to continue fighting for "the rights of all Zambians"

A Zambian court has acquitted a human rights activist on charges of promoting homosexuality, in a ruling hailed as a boost for gay rights in Africa.

Paul Kasonkomona was charged with "soliciting for immoral purposes" after arguing for gay rights on a TV show in April 2013.

But on Tuesday a magistrate found that the state had failed to prove its case.

Homosexuality is illegal in deeply conservative Zambia - as it is in some 40 African countries.

On Monday, Uganda toughened its anti-gay laws - introducing life sentences for gay sex and same-sex marriage, banning the "promotion" of homosexuality and requiring citizens to report suspected homosexuals.

Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have blocked some direct aid to the Ugandan government as a result.

'Landmark judgement'

Mr Kasonkomona was arrested and released on bail after arguing that recognition of gay rights was necessary if the Aids epidemic was to be effectively addressed in Africa.

"The magistrate was clear: public discussion is important," Anneke Meerkotter - a lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which campaigned for Mr Kasonkomona - told AFP news agency.

"This is a great victory for freedom of expression. The mood in court was one of great relief. Kasonkomona did not deserve to be arrested for expressing his opinion and the court ruling vindicates his rights."

Mr Kasonkomona told AFP his acquittal was a "landmark judgement" and vowed to keep to speak out "for the rights of all Zambians".