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Swazi Opposition Supporters Go to Court to See Jailed Leader


In Swaziland, the leader of the opposition People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) goes to court Monday for a remand hearing. Mario Masuku was arrested November 15 under a new law that declares the opposition PUDEMO as a terrorist organization.

The government of King Mswati III has also reportedly prevented members of the opposition to visit Masuku in prison.

Mphandlana Shongwe, a founding member of PUDEMO, told VOA a petition would also be made during Monday hearing for the court to allow PUDEMO members to visit their leader in prison.

"On Monday, our president will be going for, I think, the third remand hearing. And also there will be an urgent application to allow us, members of his organization to see the president behind bars because as of now it is only his close family members and lawyers that are allowed to see him. The rest of the people that he is leading are not allowed to see him, including diplomats," he said.

Swaziland's new Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has reportedly warned foreign diplomats not to get involved with the people he has branded 'terrorists'.

Shongwe said the government also refused for a delegation from the Council of Swaziland Churches to visit Masuku.

"These members from different denominations tried to visit the president to give him a spiritual encouragement, but they were turned down by the prison authorities. The reason given for that was that everybody who associates himself with members of this banned organization is indirectly or directly supporting terrorism. So they were viewed as people support terrorism," he said.

But Shongwe denied that PUDEMO is a terrorist organization. On the contrary, he said PUDEMO is fighting for democracy.

"First of all not only my organization, but most of the organizations in this country are calling for a constitutional multi-party democracy where our king will be protected from the daily politics by having him as a ceremonial leader. On top of that, the government has passed a law called Terrorism Act that resulted in the banning of about four organizations. Our president has been locked up for having spoken words in a funeral, and he is purported to have supported terrorism," Shongwe said.

He said many organizations and individuals worldwide have joined in the call for Masuku's release from prison.

"Quite a number of people are directly communicating with the head of state, the king, that our president should be released. We must admit that we are grateful to you, Sir, for picking up this issue because it can easily be forgotten. You see in a situation where you have a king people tend to believe that everything is okay yet it is not," Shongwe said.


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