Due to a lack of evidence, two men in Zambia have been acquitted after having been imprisoned for over a year, accused of having sexual relations “against the order of nature”.

James Mwape and Philip Mubiana, had been imprisoned since May 2013, accused of having gay sex.

Their trial concluded in February this year, but the pair continued to be held, as they were denied bail. In May, Amnesty reported that the trial had been postponed “indefinitely”.

If they had been convicted, the pair could have faced prison sentences of up to 14 years. Authorities had been urged to release the men without charge by global human rights groups Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty specifically condemned the use of “anal examinations” on the two men, describing the practice as “inherently invasive, abusive, profoundly humiliating and conducted for reasons based purely on discrimination.”

Outside the magistrates court  in the town of Kapiri Mposhi which acquitted the men, based on a lack of evidence provided by the state, some condemned Western support of the couple, and calls for them to be released.

Thirty six countries in Africa currently criminalise gay sexual activity.

In July 2013, an Englishman living in Zambia was forced to leave the country for good after details of his civil partnership in the UK generated a storm of controversy.