The Malawi gay couple pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika praised their liberator on Thursday, the AFP reported.

In a joint statement, the pair said Mutharika had demonstrated that he is “a caring father, a considerate and tolerant president” in sparing them from a harsh sentence for being gay.

“We wish him good health in his everyday endeavors as he continues leading the country to respecting human rights and to economic prosperity,” the couple said.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were charged with and found guilty of unnatural acts and gross indecency for participating in a symbolic engagement ceremony in December. They were sentenced to serve 14-years of hard labor.

“I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example,” Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa said.

The sentence was condemned by the United States and Britain. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley called the harsh sentence “appalling.”

Mutharika reversed the ruling after meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Malawi.

The president, however, has not back down from his opposition to gay rights. In urging the country Wednesday to stop talking about the ordeal, the 76-year-old Mutharika called the gay ceremony “satanic” and “a crime against our culture, against our religion and against our laws.” But added that he pardoned the couple because “to err is human and to forgive is divine.”

It is a criminal offense to be gay in at least thirty-seven African countries. Even in South Africa, where gay marriage is legal, anti-gay sentiment runs high.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton praised the pardon, calling the decision “courageous.” President Mutharika “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,” Clinton added. “Sexual orientation and gender identity should under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.”