This is an interesting development…
Mr wa Mutharika had been under international pressure to reconsider the convictions of Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20. They were arrested in December after they were united in a traditional wedding ceremony in the conservative southern African country, where homosexuality is illegal.
The two men were tried and found guilty of sodomy and indecency earlier this month in a trial viewed as a test case for homosexual rights in the country.
Mr Ban, who was due to address the National Assembly later, is expected to ask the legislators to change the laws on homosexuality.
His decision will be seen as a victory by campaigners who had challenged the conviction and length of the sentence.
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, met the Malawian president on Saturday in the capital Lilongwe.
“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”
He added: “I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this.”
UPDATE: The State Dept issued a statement today:
Secretary of State
I join President Obama in applauding President Bingu wa Mutharika for his wise and courageous decision to pardon Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. He has provided an example for nations across Africa and the world as they debate laws that criminalize sexual orientation.
Human rights belong to all, and must be respected by all. Sexual orientation and gender identity should under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.
This is a good day for Malawi, for Africa, and for people of conscience everywhere.