Thulani Maseko sentenced to 2 years in prison
22 August 2014

Thulani Maseko sentenced to 2 years in prison


On 17 July lawyer Thulani Maseko and journalist Bheki Makhubu, were both convicted of  ‘contempt of court’ by  the High Court of Swaziland. Shortly afterwards they were both sentenced to two years in prison. The normal punishment for  ‘contempt of court’ is a 30-day prison sentence or a 2,200 Euro fine.

The conviction seems to be related to their critical statements in several journal articles in response to the arrest of an officer. The officer had arrested the driver of a High Court judge for a traffic violation. In the articles, Maseki and Makhubu questioned the integrity, impartiality and independence of the Swaziland judiciary.

The judge found, referring to the constitution, that the right of freedom of expression is not absolute but limited. According to the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN), such a narrow interpretation of the constitution and the conviction itself show that the judiciary cannot handle criticism. The organization is further concerned that the conviction will set a bad precedent.

After their initial arrest in March, a court in the beginning of April ruled that the arrest and detention of Maseko and Makhubu were unlawful and they were released. Shortly after, they were arrested again, however.

In June, Lawyers for Lawyers sent letters to the authorities of Swaziland. Together with other organisations it currently considers what action to take.

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