1 May 2014

Swaziland: May Day Leaders Arrested

Democracy leaders in Swaziland were arrested and charged with sedition on Thursday (1 May 2014) during May Day commemorations in the kingdom.

Mario Masuku, President of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the best-known of the opposition groups in Swaziland and Maxwell Dlamini, General-Secretary of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), were among pro-democracy campaigners charged.

They were arrested as part of a renewed clampdown against dissent in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

Seven democracy campaigners are in jail on remand since last month accused of terrorist activities after they were arrested for wearing PUDEMO T-shirts and berets. PUDEMO has been banned in Swaziland as a 'terrorist' organisation since 2008, under the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko are presently on trial in Swaziland charged with contempt after writing articles for the Nation, a small circulation magazine, that criticised the Swazi judiciary.

Last month, illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders to prevent them addressing a meeting calling for freedom in Swaziland.

Thousands of workers turned out to mark May Day across Swaziland. Police were out in force in Manzini, the main commercial city in Swaziland, where a mass rally took place at the Salesian Sports Ground.

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