Judge convicts editor and human rights lawyer for criticising Chief Justice.
Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and editor of ‘The Nation’ magazine Bheki Makhubu were convicted for contempt of court on Thursday, 17 July by High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane.
Action for Southern Africa has condemned the judgement and is supporting Swazi civil society’s calls on the Swazi regime to release Bheki Makhubu, Thulani Maseko and all human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally.
Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko were first detained by police on 17/18 March after Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi initiated charges for contempt of court. The two were accused of writing articles in ‘The Nation’ magazine criticising the lack of impartiality of the judiciary and the Chief Justice’s earlier decision to charge Bantshana Gwebu, the Chief Government Vehicle Inspector for contempt of court, after he charged a high court judge’s driver for abuse of a government vehicle.
Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko have remained in custody since their arrest, apart from three days at the beginning of April when another High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini set aside the warrant for their arrest and released them, after their lawyers argued it was unconstitutional and unlawful. The Chief Justice had them rearrested on 9 April.
In his judgement on the two Judge Mpendulo Simelane dismissed almost all the evidence given by the defence and their witnesses. He has reservedsentencing until a later date. Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko’s lawyerssay they intend to appeal.
ACTSA’s Campaigns Manager Mark Beacon said “This was a highly politicised trial and yet another example of how the Swazi regime uses the judicial system to crush anyone who dares to criticise them. ACTSA joins with voices in Swaziland calling on the government to release Thulani Makeko, Bheki Makhubu and all human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally.”
Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko’s case is one of a number of recentpoliticised cases targeting Swaziland’s pro democracy movement. At the endof April seven members of the banned political party PUDEMO were arrestedand charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition andSubversive Activities Act for allegedly wearing political t-shirts. On 1MayPUDEMO President Mario Masuku and youth leader Maxwell Dlamini werearrestedand charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Sedition andSubversive Activities Act for allegedly saying “viva PUDEMO” and “down with Tinkhundla” (repressive system of government) at a rally.
Photograph: Bheki Makhubu (AFP) – Mail and Guardian