Morten Nielson, Information Officer of Africa Contact, Denmark, was one of five people threatened with death by police and security forces after being held during a raid on an office of the Federation for Socio-Economic Justice (FSEJ) in Swaziland on7 September 2010.
Nielson writes, ‘At around 9.20 [am], FSEJ’s coordinator returns to the office and tells us that the police are on their way up the stairs leading to the office where we are presently seated, and that at least 100 police officers have surrounded the building below the office. We decide to open the door voluntarily when they arrive.’
He goes on, ‘The following events are chaotic, to say the least. One group of people, who I believe to be plain clothed police officers, enter the office shouting and screaming. They immediately start beating up one of the local employees of FSEJ, after which I see my Danish colleague fall to the floor and try to grab hold of his spectacles.
‘Suddenly, I feel two hands tightening around my throat and a man yelling into my face. At the same time I am being hit and slapped on the head. Around 12 plain clothed officers are now in the small office. The grip around my neck is loosed after a little while – although it feels like a long time.’
‘The many angry man (I also believe there was a woman present) continue yelling orders at us, however. We are also threatened, some of these threats being death threats. We are told that we will never return to Denmark and that today will be our last.’
He and his colleagues are forced out of the office and taken to ‘what I believe to be a police station’.
Nielson continues, ‘We are made to stand in a dark hallway with a group of plain clothed policemen standing in front of us. They continue with the threats to kill us. They hit anyone who attempts to speak. A couple of the senior police officers in uniform try to intervene but are told to mind their own business by the plain clothed officers.’
They are then taken to a yard outside.
‘There is a large group of heavily armed police officers in the yard. They are all carrying truncheons and firearms. They form a circle around us and start yelling at us. The atmosphere is very tense and I am certain that we are in for a beating,’ Nielson says.
The police threats continue as the police ‘start to elaborate upon how they are going to kill us’.
He goes on, ‘All five of us are then taken to a police van and put in the back. The group of officers are now standing outside the police van. They continue to threaten us, in English as well as in Swazi. This is meant for our two partners. They are told that they will die, that the local chief has been told that they are “political”, and that they will therefore be evicted from their homes and land. They are also told that they will be strangled and buried alive.’
Later Nielson is taken for interrogation. ‘I am stood in front of a large table facing seven people or so, two or three of them women. They start shouting at me to stand right in front of them. They also tell the women present to leave the room.
‘During the interrogation, everyone asks me questions at the same time and all demand that I answer them. They want to know who we have met with and why. When I ask for a lawyer and to be able to speak with the Danish embassy they become very angry and tell me that I will be killed.’
He goes on, ‘Everything I say is being written down by all the officers present. I have no idea who they are as no-one introduced themselves. All the officers are plain clothed except for one uniformed woman.
‘After having been interrogated I am told that I will not be going back to Denmark and that they will personally see to it that my life will end in the most painful way possible. For the duration of the interrogation, pictures are taken of me with my own camera. I am subsequently told to delete these pictures. I am then given a handwritten piece of paper and told to sign it. I do as I am told even though I cannot read the contents without my glasses. They threaten to kill me several times as I am been escorted to the van.’
For the full account of Nielson’s experience, click here.