Top rights lawyer arrested

2009-06-04 22:32

Mbabane - Leading Swazi human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko has been arrested on charges of sedition and subversive activities, a fellow attorney told AFP on Thursday.

Maseko represents Mario Masuku, head of the banned People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), who was jailed last year.

Mzwandile Masuku, Mario's son who practises law with Maseko, told AFP that he was arrested early on Wednesday at his home on the outskirts of the capital.

"He was charged with sedition and subversive activities. He is currently at the Sidvwashini Prison pending his court appearance," Masuku said.

The charges accuse him of praising two men implicated in the botched bombing of a bridge last September, saying they were working for the liberation of Africa's last absolute monarchy.

Maseko's law firm recently won a landmark case compelling the government to introduce free primary education, in line with constitutional requirements.

His arrest was condemned by the Southern African Litigation Centre, which represents lawyers across the region.

"This is one more instance in which the Swazi government shows that it has no genuine commitment to constitutional democracy in Swaziland," the centre's director Nicole Fritz said.

"That it would arrest Thulani, who has been involved in almost every important human rights challenge in Swaziland in recent years, shows just how shameless it is."

Swaziland is Africa's last absolute monarchy and political organisations here have been banned since 1973.

King Mswati III, who ascended the throne at age 18, has the power to appoint the prime minister, the legislature and the judiciary.