[QODLink]
Africa

Swaziland High Court jails government critics

Judge jails editor and rights lawyer for two years over articles critical of government and judiciary to deter others.

Last updated: 26 Jul 2014 01:55
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The judge described Maseko's conduct during the trial as 'disgusting' [AFP]

Swaziland's High Court has jailed a magazine editor and a human rights lawyer for two years for contempt of court over articles critical of the government and judiciary.

Bheki Makhubu, editor of The Nation, and Thulani Maseko, an executive member of Lawyers for Human Rights Swaziland, have been in custody since their arrest in March.

Judge Mpendulo Simelane said on Friday that the two-year sentences were meant to be a deterrent to other journalists.

With this sentence, Swaziland is sending the message that raising any concerns about judicial independence is out of bounds. It is a deplorable attack on freedom of expression in the country.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International 

It was becoming a habit in Swaziland for journalists to write "scurrilous" articles which were "reprehensible and unacceptable to right-thinking members of society," he said.

Amnesty International's Deprose Muchena said: "With this sentence, Swaziland is sending the message that raising any concerns about judicial independence is out of bounds.

"It is a deplorable attack on freedom of expression in the country."

The Nation published articles co-authored by the two men which were critical of the chief justice and suggested that he may have abused his powers, the AFP news agency reported.

Criticism of absolute monarch King Mswati III and his government is outlawed, and courts have come down hard on perceived opponents.

Judge Simelane said he would show no leniency to Makhubu and Maseko because they had not shown any remorse during the trial. 

He pointed out that in an emotional moment during court proceedings, Makhubu referred to him by his first name, which was unacceptable and a sign of being remorseless.

Simelane also described Maseko's conduct during the trial as "disgusting". He said Maseko was playing to the international gallery by making statements critical of the goverment.

Maseko's international supporters were doing him a disfavour by encouraging him to criticise the king and the whole system of governance, the judge said.

He described the human rights lawyer as a disgrace to the legal profession. 

This prompted Maseko to shout from the dock "amandla!" (power!), winning the response "awethu!" (is ours!) from political activists in the public gallery.

It is expected that both Makhubu and Maseko will appeal their conviction and sentence.

389

Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.