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Zambia court acquits gay rights activist

Gay rights and HIV activist Paul Kasonkomona was acquitted Tuesday by the Lusaka Magistrate's Court of charges of encouraging homosexuality. Kasonkomona, a well-known activist for LGBT rights in highly-conservative Zambia, where homosexuality is illegal, was arrested in April 2013 after speaking out on a television program for "soliciting in a public place for immoral purposes." The magistrate found [BBC report] that the state had failed to make a sufficient case against Kasonkomona and he was released. The ruling is seen as a victory for gay rights in Africa in the wake of increasing anti-homosexuality legislation.

Homosexuality is illegal in about 40 countries in Africa. Uganda, in particular, is facing controversy over a recently passed law that strengthens harsh penalties for homosexuality to include life in prison. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni [official website] signed the bill into law [JURIST report] Monday. UN rights experts and human rights groups have condemned the legislation [press release] as a violation of basic human rights.

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