Prominent Zambian gay rights activist Paul Kasonkomona on Thursday pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting homosexuality, after appearing live on television to argue for his cause.
“I deny the charge, your honour,” Kasonkomona said in his first court appearance since being detained on charges of soliciting for an “immoral purpose”.
The 38-year-old activist was arrested in the capital on Sunday, minutes after he appeared on a live TV show where he openly advocated for gay rights.
Homosexuality is outlawed in Zambia, as in most African countries, and discrimination against gays and lesbians is rife.
Kasonkomona's arrest has outraged human rights groups which have called for his immediate release.
“We urge the Zambian police to withdraw the spurious charge against Paul Kasonkomona and release him from custody with immediate effect,” said Anneke Meerkotter, a lawyer at the Southern African Litigation Centre.
It was “outrageous” that Kasonkomona had spent three nights in detention for “such a minor offence”, she said.
His “unlawful arrest and detention” was “a blatant attempt to silence anyone who promotes the human rights of sexual minorities in Zambia,” she added.
South Africa is the only country on the continent to have legalised same-sex marriages.