Testimony against Swazi editor, lawyer

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Swaziland -

A Swazi editor and human rights lawyer, arrested on contempt charges after criticising the chief justice, went beyond reporting legal proceedings and expressed opinions that reflected bad attitudes to the court, the deputy registrar of the Supreme Court says.

“It is wrong to publish something that will tarnish the integrity of the court or lower its reputation,” Banele Ngcamphalala, a witness for the prosecution, said when cross-examined by defence lawyers on Monday.

Bheki Makhubu, the editor of The Nation magazine, and attorney Thulani Maseko have been in custody for more than a month.

They wrote articles, published in the magazine, that were critical of Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

In their articles, Makhubu and Maseko alleged the chief justice had used his judicial power to pursue a vendetta against a Swazi government inspector who had impounded his official car because of illegal usage.

The chief justice is a Lesotho judge handpicked by King Mswati to hold Swaziland’s highest judicial post, in contravention of the national constitution, which requires that a Swazi be appointed.

Justice Ramodibedi resigned last week from the Bench in Lesotho, where he is facing impeachment and prosecuted on allegations of insurance fraud. His impeachment hearing has been set down for May 12, according to his spokesman.

Pro-democracy demonstrators gathered outside the court on Monday.

Several political activists were arrested outside the court last week.

Independent Foreign Service

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