Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mario’s friends turned back from seeing him

Mario’s friends turned back from seeing him
Sunday Times March 01,2009

MBABANE—Government, through the Correctional Services Department, has once again refused to obey a court order.

Yesterday, some friends and relatives of PUDEMO chief Mario Masuku were denied permission to see him at Matsapha Maximum Prison despite a court order issued by a full bench of judges on Wednesday.

Masuku has been charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, for statements he allegedly made during the funeral service for Musa ‘MJ’ Dlamini, who died during the failed Lozitha bridge bombing.

One of those who were turned back by uncompromising prison warders was Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions chief Jan Sithole and his counterpart from the Swaziland United Democratic Front, Barnes Dlamini.

Sithole confirmed this in an interview.

"They turned us back and the reasons given were not so clear. They told us that only three people per day are allowed to see Masuku. I failed to understand their new arrangement because we were all arrested there at some point, but our relatives and friends were allowed to visit us," said an irritated Sithole.

"We also asked if this was a standing rule, and if such a rule applied to other suspects and inmates. Their response was that it was an instruction from their superiors," he said.

Sithole said they were carrying the court order, but officers told them that it had no effect in light of the strict instructions issued by their superiors.

Sithole lamented the warders’ action, adding that their behaviour gave one the impression that Masuku had already been convicted for the alleged crime.

"In addition to that kind of treatment, he is kept in solitary confinement, as if he is a dangerous criminal," he said.

However, it was reliably gathered that other visitors were allowed to see the suspect prior to Sithole’s arrival.

He went on to state that they were contemplating reporting the matter to the High Court.

"Maybe the courts should unpack the ruling because clearly, the prison authorities are doing as they please, despite the instrument of the court," he said.

The ruling in favour of Masuku was issued on Wednesday. He had applied seeking permission to have his friends, comrades and relatives to see him at the prison.
He has persistently refused to seek bail on the grounds that he does not have money to give to a government that never concludes his cases. He has hopes that by remaining in jail, government will speed up his trial.

The Correctional Services PRO’s phone was not available on the network when sought for comment.

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