Target: Sibusiso Shongwe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
Goal: Celebrate the release of two prisoners of conscience in Swaziland.
After spending over a year in jail as prisoners of conscience, Bhekithemba Makhubu and Thulani Maseko have been released from prison and had their sentences overturned by the Swaziland Supreme Court. Their freedom is a victory that is due in no small part to the contributions of activists like those here at ForceChange, and it ought to be celebrated!
Makhubu, the editor of the newspaper The Nation, and Maseko, a human rights lawyer, were arrested after Makhubu published two articles written by Maseko which were critical of Swaziland’s judicial system. Their arrest warrants were plagued by “irregularities” and the were denied access to their lawyers for a time.
Their trial was conducted under similarly suspicious conditions. The judge presiding over the proceedings was named in Maseko’s article, which presented a clear conflict of interest. There was also talk that the judge and the Minister of Justice at the time may have met in the judge’s chambers prior to sentencing.
However, both men were recently released after the Supreme Court accepted their appeal, noting that there was no case against the men. Charges against The Nation were also dropped.
Floods of petitions and letters from all over the world played an instrumental role in bringing about Makhubu and Maseko’s release. The battle was a long one–ForceChange activists began their contributions over one year ago–but victory has come at last! Sign the petition congratulating the Minister of Justice on the outcome of the case and celebrating the release of Bhekithemba Makhubu and Thulani Maseko.
I am writing to express how very pleased I was to hear about the release of Bhekithemba Makhubu and Thulani Maseko, prisoners of conscience who spent more than a year behind bars. The Supreme Court’s acceptance of their appeal is a great step toward justice, and it ought to be acknowledged and celebrated!
Makhubu and Maseko were arrested after Makhubu, the editor of The Nation, published two articles in which Maseko, a human rights lawyer, criticized Swaziland’s judicial system. They were denied access to their lawyers for a time following their arrest, and the judge who presided over their case had been singled out by name in Maseko’s article, presenting a clear conflict of interest.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn their sentences is wonderful news that is being celebrated all over the world. I congratulate you on correcting a gross miscarriage of justice and I urge you to continue to make Swaziland a more just and respectful place.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Nicolas Raymond