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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 11:03 GMT
February trial for Swazi king critic
Graffiti in Mbabane
Graffiti calling for the opposition politician's release
The trial of jailed Swaziland opposition leader, Mario Masuku, has been postponed until early February after he complained of hearing problems.

The diabetes sufferer is accused of sedition, following a speech he made in September 2000, when he allegedly called for revolution in the kingdom.

Mr Masuku saw a doctor on Thursday evening, but a medical report was presented to the court, showing that Mr Masuku did not have a hearing problem.

The BBC's Bhekie Matsebula in Mbabane said Mr Masuku appeared in court looking healthy and clenched his first chanting: "Viva Comrades Viva".

Mario Masuku
He was defiant during his court appearance

"The struggle continues, no matter what the circumstances," he said to applause from his supporters.

Unlike on Thursday there were no armed security officers around the court.

Justice Josiah Matsebula also warned the state to reconsider its intended move to ban the media and the public from taking part in the trial when it begins on 4 February.

He said he did not want it to appear that the court had something to hide.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Lincoln N'garua, told the court that if the media did attend the proceedings it would be tantamount to repeating the seditious statements allegedly made by Mr Masuku.

Bail broken

Opposition parties are not allowed to engage in political activity in Swaziland.

The Swazi King has ruled as an absolute monarch since the father of the current monarch, King Mswati III, banned political parties and scrapped the constitution in 1973.

King Mswati III
King Mswati brooks no political dissent

Mr Masuku, president of the Peoples United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), was arrested in early October for defying bail conditions following a charge of sedition a year previously.

He faces up to 20 years in prison, accused of calling for the removal of absolute monarch King Mswati III, who has banned all opposition activity.

More than 20 senior and junior police officers are expected to testify against him.

International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have called for a speedy trial for Mr Masuku, whose health is fast deteriorating.

He suffers from diabetes and was last month hospitalised for 'flu and hyper-tension.

See also:

12 Dec 01 | Africa
Concern for jailed Swazi leader
25 Jun 01 | Africa
Anger at Swazi media decree
28 Sep 01 | Africa
Swazi king takes eighth wife
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Swaziland
04 Dec 01 | Africa
Profile: Troubled King Mswati
14 Nov 01 | Africa
Swazi tussle over virgin tassels
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