In Swaziland, Lawyer and journalist in detention for criticising judges

In Swaziland, Lawyer and journalist  in detention for criticising judges

Journalist and lawyer behind bars. Photo courtesy Amnesty

Journalist and lawyer behind bars. Photo courtesy Amnesty

On Tuesday, 1 April 2014 Judge Mpendulo Simelane of the Mbabane High Court extended the detention of Thulani Maseko, a prominent human rights lawyer, and Bheki Makhubu, the editor of The Nation magazine, for another seven days.

The pair have been in custody since 17 March 2014,   according to the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

Maseko and Makhubu are facing charges of contempt of court related to articles they wrote in which they criticised the judiciary of Swaziland.

In court, Adv Mkhwanazi representing Maseko filed an urgent application in which he sought a review of the arrest warrant, and a declaration that the detention and indictment were unlawful and irregular. This application will be heard on Thursday, 3 April 2014, before Judge Mumcy Dlamini.

“The continued detention of Maseko and Makhubu for a crime that in Swaziland does not lead to prison time on conviction is a flagrant abuse of power”, said Nicole Fritz, SALC Executive Director.

Makhubu, who has applied for bail, filed an application for the recusal of Judge Simelane from the bail application.

“This case clearly demonstrates the lack of independence in the Swazi judiciary”, Fritz said. “Both the Chief Justice and the presiding Judge are mentioned in the allegedly contemptuous articles, and so simply cannot be seen to be playing the role of complainant and judge.”

Makhubu’s bail application has been postponed pending the finalisation of the recusal application, which will be heard on Wednesday, 9 April 2014. Both Maseko and Makhubu will appear in court on 3 April 2014, for the review application brought by Maseko.

 

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