Jailed Swazi critic put in solitary confinement

AP News
Posted: Mar 24, 2015 8:55 AM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A jailed critic of the Swaziland government has been put in solitary confinement following the online dissemination of a letter in which he describes tough conditions in prison, his wife and supporters said Tuesday.

The letter by jailed lawyer Thulani Maseko was released to mark the first anniversary of his imprisonment in the southern African kingdom and appeared to have "irritated" prison authorities, said his wife, Tanele Maseko.

The letter refers to alleged injustices in Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch. It also discusses prison life, including a lack of proper bedding and meals of cabbage, beans and small pieces of chicken.

Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, editor of Swaziland's The Nation magazine, were found guilty of contempt of court for publishing articles lamenting alleged threats to judicial independence in Swaziland. They are expected to be released in July.

Sibusiso Nhlabatsi, a colleague of Maseko who has visited him weekly, said prison authorities told him the solitary confinement started late last week and will continue for a total of three weeks. Maseko's books were taken away and he is not allowed to go to the prison canteen to supplement the food he gets, Nhlabatsi said.

Maseko's lawyer was able to see him in the presence of the prison warden on Friday and has gone to court to try to lift the solitary confinement order, according to Nhlabatsi.

Swaziland held parliamentary elections in 2013, but many international observers say the electoral process is manipulated to prolong the king's hold on power. According to the king, Swaziland's image has been damaged by misinformation.