Swaziland: Riot Police Force Halt Prayer Meeting

Manzini — A 'battalion of police officers' stopped a prayer meeting in Swaziland's main city Manzini, claiming it was illegal.

The police, carrying batons, took control of the Caritas Centre and stopped a commemoration prayer called by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

Riot police later arrived to ensure that no prayers took place.

The Swazi Government had, without a court order, decided that the prayers, organized by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) were illegal because the workers' group was not officially registered with the state. TUCOSWA had been refused permission to register by the Industrial Court which said there was no law in the kingdom that allowed such registration to take place.

TUCOSWA had organized the prayers to mark the first anniversary of its inception.

The Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, where most media is state-controlled, reported a 'battalion' of police carrying batons were later joined by the riot squad, the Operation and Support Service Unit (OSSU).

They stopped the prayers despite protests from leaders of TUCOSWA.

Barnes Dlamini, President of TUCOSWA, said police did not have a court order to ban the prayers.

The Times Sunday reported him saying that the police misinterpreted the Industrial Court order. Although TUCOSWA could not register as a labour federation that did not mean that it was illegal.

In Swaziland many organisations are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, including the people's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the best known of the opposition parties in Swaziland.

The participants decided to abandon the prayer meeting.

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