Swazi activists face contempt rap

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Mbabane - The Swazi government intends to pursue contempt of court charges against magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights attorney Thulani Maseko, both freed on a technicality from custody on Sunday while awaiting trial.

“The judge misdirected herself in dealing with the merits of the case,” the government argues in a notice of appeal filed at the Supreme Court of Swaziland. The government is a co-appellant, with Swaziland’s attorney general and director of public prosecutions, to the appeal brought by Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

Stating that Judge Ramodibedi had been “incompetent in law”, Judge Mumsy Dlamini had freed the men after they had been in jail for 20 days.

An international outcry arose over their arrests, which overturned the Swazi constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech and press freedom.

Makhubu and Maseko wrote articles critical of a ruling by Chief Justice Ramodibedi in a magazine edited by Makhubu. The chief justice had them arrested and incarcerated.

Amnesty International called the men “prisoners of conscience,” and the EU and US expressed concern over the arrests.

Judge Dlamini agreed with the pair’s attorneys that the chief justice had no legal authority to issue an arrest warrant and should’ve arraigned the men in open court rather than in his chambers in a secret session from which their attorneys were banned. – Independent Foreign Service

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