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May 27, 2017

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Two critics of Swaziland government are sentenced

JOHANNESBURG--Two government critics in Swaziland have been sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of contempt of court for publishing articles lamenting alleged threats to judicial independence in the southern African kingdom.

The sentencing Friday of lawyer Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu, editor of Swaziland's The Nation magazine, drew criticism from Amnesty International and other human rights groups, which described the ruling as an attack on freedom of expression.

Maseko, who studied law at American University's Washington College of Law, and Makhubu were found guilty on July 17. In their articles, they criticized the prosecution of a government vehicle inspector who was arrested after impounding a vehicle used by a top judge. Their articles angered Swazi officials who accused them of slander.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch. Many observers say the country's parliamentary system is designed to preserve royal power, though the small, poor kingdom of about 1 million people attracts little international attention.

During his trial, Maseko delivered a blistering attack on the Swazi judiciary and political system, saying the population was being treated with contempt.

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