10 June 2013

Swaziland: Three Activists 'Beaten in Jail'

Three members of the pro-democracy group SWAYOCO charged with sedition for carrying a banner at an election rally in Swaziland say they have been beaten up while in prison awaiting trial.

They say warders beat them at the Sidvwashini Correctional Facility. They told magistrates they now feared for their safety.

The accused, described in local media as members of the Swaziland Youth Congress, one of a number of pro-democracy groups banned in Swaziland, are Mfanawenkhosi Mbhunu Mtshali, 37, of Gobholo, Derrick Dickson Nkambule, 47, of Mgababa and Maxwell Manqoba Thandukukhanya Dlamini, 23.

They appeared before Magistrate Ndumiso Shongwe last week and claimed to be beaten and subjected to harsh treatment and were denied medical treatment.

Dlamini, who is the Secretary General of SWAYOCO, also said he was beaten by an officer from the Correctional Facility just as he was about to enter the court.

The Swazi Observer newspaper reported he told Magistrate Shongwe that he had been beaten by an officer because he refused to have chains on his legs untied as it was normal that they entered in court with the chains.

The chief escort from the Correction Facility, whom the newspaper did not name, told the court the three men had caused trouble in prison because they 'sometimes sang struggle songs whilst in the cell and disrupted other inmates'.

The three men are charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008 and the Sedition and Subversive Act of 1938. They are alleged to have taken part in an illegal demonstration on 19 April 2013 and carried a huge banner inscribed with 'subversive material'.

They were remanded back in custody pending committal to the High Court.

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