Lawyers for the gay Malawian couple found guilty of homosexual sex have asked for the pair to receive non-custodial sentences.

Stephen Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were found guilty of unnatural acts and gross indecency yesterday.

Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa is expected to sentence them tomorrow.

Although Malawi punishes homosexuality with up to 14 years of hard labour, the couple’s lawyers have asked for a non-custodial sentence to reflect the fact they are first-time offenders and did not hurt anyone.

Mr Monjeza and Mr Chimbalanga pleaded not guilty to the charges. They were arrested on December 29th 2009 after holding a wedding ceremony and have been held in prison without bail for four and a half months.

Yesterday, the Malawian minister of information, Leckford Mwanza Thotho, said the government was pleased at the conviction.

“What we are saying is that the ruling or the court proceeding as of today, reflects our tradition in Malawi. It just shows that the gay issue is against our culture in Malawi,” he said.

Amnesty International has called for their immediate release.

Deputy Africa director Michelle Kagari said: “Their human rights, the rights to freedom from discrimination, of conscience, expression and privacy have been flagrantly violated.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk yesterday that the conviction breaches Malawi’s constitution.

“This is an appalling verdict. There is no evidence to justify it,” he said.