Swaziland Supreme Court Releases Editor and Lawyer
On 30 June 2015, the Supreme Court in Swaziland ordered that human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, and magazine editor, Bheki Makhubu, be immediately released after having spent 15 months in prison. The order came following the Court’s decision to uphold an appeal brought by the pair contesting their conviction on two counts of contempt of court and their two year prison sentences.
Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu were arrested and charged with contempt of court in March 2014 after writing articles that were critical of the Swazi judiciary and the Chief Justice of Swaziland. The articles were published in the February and the March 2014 editions of Mr Makhubu’s magazine, The Nation, one of the few independent news outlets in Swaziland. Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu were found guilty in July 2014 and filed their appeal with the Supreme Court in August 2014.
The Supreme Court had convened to hear arguments on the appeal, but the prosecution dropped its case and acknowledged that the convictions of Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu were unsupportable. Accordingly, the Court overturned the convictions.
Mr Makhubu’s case was supported by MLDI both in the first instance and on appeal. MDLI’s Legal Director, Nani Jansen expressed her approval of the court’s decision: “Imprisoning writers for being critical of the judiciary stifles freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Today’s decision from the Supreme Court is not only good for Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu, but also for Swaziland as a whole.”