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By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
“We may be acquitted or the government will do as it always does, keep us on indefinite bail,” says president of the Swaziland National Union of Students, Maxwell Dlamini. “We are just hoping that the trial will be over very soon. We are to know the direction it will take after the 16th of May 2012, where the next [court] sitting will be. Until now they haven’t led any evidence that links us to the charges.”
He and his fellow accused, law graduate and former student leader Musa Ngubeni, are on trial for allegedly being in possession of explosives in connection with last April’s protests against Swaziland’s absolute monarchy on the 38th anniversary of the country’s state of emergency and banning of all political parties.
Both insist that they are innocent and were tortured by police and told they would be killed for helping to organise the peaceful protest action. ““I was tied to a bench with my face looking upwards and they suffocated me with the black plastic bag. They did that over and over again till I collapsed. They told me that they will kill me for causing trouble in the country,” Maxwell told Africa Contact in March.
Delaying trials, keeping suspects on indefinite bail and generally harassing them are methods commonly employed by the regime in Swaziland against political activists. Being on indefinite bail severely restricts the freedom of movement of activists such as Maxwell and Musa. They have to report to the Mbabane Regional Police Station four times a week, even though they live in Manzini, and have had their passports taken, which means that they cannot leave the country without asking permission from the regime.