May 25, 2010, 7:37 AM EDT
By Brian Latham
May 25 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwean authorities arrested two gay-rights activists for displaying signs critical of President Robert Mugabe’s stance on homosexuality and “undermining” the 86-year-old leader’s authority.
Ellen Chademana and Ingatius Muhambi of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe pressure group were arrested on May 21 after a police search of their offices in the capital, Harare, Kumbirai Mafunda, a lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said in a telephone interview from the city today.
“Police allege that Chademana and Muhambi displayed a plaque from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown in their office in which the African-American denounces President Robert Mugabe’s homophobia against gays and lesbians,” he said.
In 1995, Mugabe told a crowd including diplomats that homosexuals were “lower than pigs or dogs.” He has been the target of gay-rights activists on trips to Europe. Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed that Chademana and Muhambi were in police custody, though he declined to discuss the charges against them.
Chademana and Muhambi also face charges of possession of “indecent material,” Mafunda said.
“Some of the items seized from the GALZ office were taken during an illegal search without a warrant and will be contested in court,” he said.
The two activists may spend a fifth night in custody tonight because the courts are closed due to a public holiday, Mafunda said.
Zimbabwe is one of 38 countries in Africa that have laws criminalizing homosexuality, some with the death penalty, according to the website of the Brussels-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s website.
--Editors: Paul Richardson, Philip Sanders.