Zimbabwe police free gay rights activists

image captionThe organisation was founded in 1990

Two members of a Zimbabwean gay rights association have been freed from custody, their lawyers say.

They say the two are facing charges of possessing pornographic material and insulting President Robert Mugabe.

Ellen Chadian - administrator of the group, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe - and Ignatius Muhambi - an accountant - were picked up during a raid.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Zimbabwe but the group has been allowed to operate openly.

Magistrate Munamate Mutevedzi released the two on Thursday until a trial set for 10 June, when they will face penalties of imprisonment or a fine.

"The magistrate has released them on a $200 [£137] bail each," Dzimbabwe Chimbga, a lawyer representing the pair, told the AFP news agency.

New charge

Their employer said that the two were assaulted by police while in custody after their arrest last Friday.

image captionThe two were accused of insulting President Mugabe

"The initial charges are that they were found in possession of pornographic material," Mr Chimbga said earlier this week.

"Now the police want to add a charge of insulting the president," he added.

Police told by AP news agency say that they had found a letter undermining President Mugabe during the raid.

Mr Mugabe has in the past described same-sex partners as "lower than dogs and pigs", but arrests of gays are rare in Zimbabwe, correspondents say.

Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries.

Last week a judge in Malawi sentenced a gay couple to 14 years in prison with hard labour after they held a traditional engagement ceremony.

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