Two of the nine suspects accused of murdering a South African lesbian have been released.

Zoliswa Nkonyana, 19, was stoned and stabbed to death after a night out in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, on February 4th 2006.

She lived openly as a lesbian and gay rights campaigners say her killing was motivated by homophobia.

Nine men were arrested with each charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of murder.

The case has dragged on for five years, having been postponed 40 times after complaints from the defendants.

Yesterday, two of the accused – Anele Gwele and Zolile Kobese – were released after Khayelitsha’s magistrates’ court decided that there was not enough evidence against them.

Times Live reports that seven other men – Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sabelo Yekiso, Sicelo Mize, Luyanda Londzi, Themba Dlepu, Mfundo Kulani and Mbulelo Damba – remain on trial.

Prosecutors claimed that the nine men had assaulted two of Nkonyana’s friends, leading to the charges of attempted murder.

Yesterday, Magistrate Raadiyah Wathen withdrew the attempted murder charges against all nine defendants, although only Gwele and Kobese succeeded in having the murder charges against them dismissed.

The judge said there was not enough evidence to show the group had assaulted the dead woman’s friends.

Giving evidence yesterday, one of the accused, Luyanda Londzi, said he saw the victim at a local tavern on the night of her death and was aware that she was a lesbian.

He denied attacking her and claimed that her blood got on to his shoes when he stopped to look at her body.