Swazi opposition head charged with terrorism

Time of article published May 22, 2010

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Swazi opposition leader Mario Masuku said Saturday he was charged with terrorism after mentioning the name of his political movement at the funeral of a supporter who died in police custody.

Masuku was speaking at the funeral of Sipho Jele, a timber industry worker who died in prison in the Swazi capital Mbabane on May 4 after being arrested for wearing a T-shirt of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) at a May Day rally.

"As I left, we found a roadblock along the way and they just picked me up from the vehicle and I was shoved into the back of the police van and taken to Malkerns police station," he told AFP by telephone.

"I was then charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act because I mentioned the name of the People's United Democratic Movement, PUDEMO, and according to the law that was an offence," said Masuku, the group's leader.

He said he was released on his own cognisance after about 45 minutes at the police station, but officers told him he would be summoned to court next week.

Police declined to comment on the case.

"So far there is no information that we can give to people about this case," an officer at the station told AFP.

Jele's funeral was held Saturday with about 200 police standing by, after police last weekend blocked the services, saying they objected to the presence of PUDEMO members at the burial, Masuku said.

"This points to the problem that we are facing in Swaziland. There is a strong violation of the people's rights in Swaziland," Masuku said.

Police said Jele had hanged himself, an explanation Masuku rejected as "absolute nonsense".

Political organisations have been banned by law since 1973 in Africa's last absolute monarchy.

The government of King Mswati III is known for cracking down on political activists and pro-democracy campaigners.

Jele had also been arrested under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, a law that Amnesty International has condemned as violating Swazis' freedom of expression, association and assembly. - Sapa-AFP

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