Search This Blog

For more coverage follow us also on Twitter and Facebook


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

SUPREME COURT FREES JAILED WRITERS

Swaziland’s Supreme Court on Tuesday (30 June 2015) ordered the release of magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer, who had been jailed for two years for writing and publishing magazine articles critical of the Swazi judiciary.

The Supreme Court said the jailing by the Swazi High Court was unsupportable. The pair had been in jail since March 2014.

The decision follows a massive international campaign to have Makhubu and Maseko released that included the United Nations and the European Parliament. Amnesty International had named the two men prisoners of conscience.
 
The Supreme Court upheld their appeal against their convictions in the High Court last year on two charges of contempt of court and their two-year prison sentences, and ordered their immediate release from prison. The two had written and published articles that appeared in the Nation magazine, a tiny-circulation monthly magazine that circulates in Swaziland.

Media are mostly state-controlled or in effect owned by King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

The articles had been critical of the Swazi judiciary in particular and the then Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

Ramodibedi was sacked from his post on 17 June 2015 after a Judicial Service Commission hearing found him guilty of abuse of power.  Ramodibedi left Swaziland for his home country of Lesotho. A warrant for his arrest has been issued in Swaziland.

The two men’s criminal trial in the Swazi High Court was presided over by Judge Mpendulo Simelane, who has since been charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice. 

South Africa’s Independent on Line reported that at the Swazi Supreme Court the State had indicated that it was not opposing the appeal against conviction and sentence as the Directorate of Public Prosecutions believed that the convictions were unsupportable and that Judge Simelane should have recused himself from the case at the start of the trial. 

Caroline James, a freedom of expression lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which has been supporting Makhubu and Maseko’s legal fight, said, ‘The Crown’s concession that grave errors were made during the trial is a vindication for Maseko and Makhubu. The recognition by the prosecution and the court that the role of the prosecution is to prosecute and not persecute is extremely welcome in Swaziland where the law has been applied at the whim of individuals in the recent past.’

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which was one of the organisations from across the world that protested the sentences, welcomed the release and said the prosecutions had been ‘vindictive from the start’.

See also

SWAZI HUMAN RIGHTS WORSEN: AMNESTY

No comments: