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Africa
May 6 2011 3:21PM
 
Swazi activists denied bail
King Mswati III, Picture: Gallo Images
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A Swaziland court on Friday denied bail to two activists arrested in pro-democracy protests last month on charges of illegal possession of explosives.

Maxwell Dlamini, president of the Swaziland students' union, and Musa Ngubeni, a member of the banned opposition People's United Democratic Front (PUDEMO), were arrested April 13 in a clampdown on protests against the government of King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch.

During a ruling lasting less than five minutes, magistrate Florence Msibi said their release would undermine public security. But defence attorney Musa Mkhwanazi said he plans to appeal the decision to the High Court.

The Swaziland Democracy Campaign condemned the ruling as a "travesty of justice", saying the pair pose no danger to society.

"We know that this is not a punishment for any real crime but their punishment for being activists in the just struggle for democracy in Swaziland," the organisation said in a statement.

The pair are charged with two counts under a 1964 explosives act, with police claiming that detonators and electric cables were found in a bag they were carrying on the day of the protests.

The jet-set lifestyle of Mswati, 43, and his 13 wives has become increasingly controversial in the small southern African kingdom, where nearly 70 percent of people live on less than a dollar a day.

Discontent over government moves to slash civil servants' salaries in the face of a crippling budget crisis erupted into street protests on April 13, with police detaining, beating and tear-gassing demonstrators.  -AFP

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