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Swazi court refuses to free opposition leader

06 May 2014, 20:29

Mbabane - A Swaziland high court on Tuesday turned down an application for bail by the leader of a prominent opposition party who allegedly called for the overthrow of King Mswati III.

Mario Masuku, 63, president of the banned People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) was arrested shortly after addressing a May Day rally organised by the trade unions in Swaziland, the last absolute monarchy in Africa.

Masuku was detained together with the general secretary of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), Maxwell Dlamini.

The two face "terrorism" charges following their speeches, that were allegedly critical of the king and his government and suggested the overthrow of Mswati III, according to court documents.

High Court Judge Mpendulo Simelane refused to grant the pair bail on the grounds they were a flight risk.

"The accused face serious charges and it would not be in the interest of justice to release them," said the judge.

"There's a strong likelihood that the two accused if released will evade trial."

The judge ordered them back to court on 16 May for a pre-trial hearing.

The bail refusal came a day after another high court judge freed seven PUDEMO activists who had been held on charges of unlawfully soliciting support for a "terrorist" group by chanting slogans and wearing t-shirts and berets of the outlawed party.

Political parties and pro-democracy groups have been outlawed in the tiny mountain kingdom of Swaziland since 1973.



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