Swaziland opposes bail for pro-democracy activists

Swaziland on Tuesday opposed bail for two activists arrested in pro-democracy protests this month on charges of illegal possession of explosives, a court official said.

Maxwell Dlamini, president of the Swaziland students union, and Musa Ngubeni, a high-ranking member of the banned opposition People’s United Democratic Front (PUDEMO), were arrested in a clampdown on anti-government demonstrations on April 13.

They were charged with two counts under a little-used 1964 explosives act, with police claiming that detonators and electric cables were found in a bag they carried.

The pair’s bail hearing, already twice postponed, was again delayed to Friday after prosecutors opposed their release, a court official said.

About 100 students and young activists protestested after the court was adjourned, as armed police looked on from the roof of the courthouse.

“They wouldn’t have carried explosives with police roadblocks everywhere. It defeats logic,” Geez Mthethwa, of the banned Swaziland Youth Congress, said.

“Maxwell admits being in possession of the bag in which explosives were found, but he denied knowledge of its contents,” added Sikelela Dlamini of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign.

Dlamini, who was one of the leaders of the April 12 protests against King Mswati III’s royalist regime, was also detained by police for several days.

If convicted, the two men face a fine as first offenders, according to their lawyer, Mandla Mkhzanazi.

Isolated acts of sabotage are occasionally linked to an underground armed struggle. Political parties are banned in the kingdom where the main opposition group, PUDEMO operates clandestinely.

A string of high-profile bombings in 2008 included one on a bridge near the king’s palace, for which a South African man with links to the South African Communist Party is on trial in Swaziland. — AFP

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