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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Swazi opposition leader defiant
Mario Masuku behind prison guard
Pudemo says it supports the monarchy
After being acquitted on sedition charges, Mario Masuku says he will continue to campaign to reduce the powers of Swaziland's king.

The 51-year-old diabetic was released after almost a year in prison on Thursday, when a High Court judge said the police had taken his words out of context.


I would like him to be a constitutional monarch

Mario Masuku
Mr Masuku's Peoples United Democratic Party (Pudemo) is banned, like all other political parties.

Swaziland is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies and King Mswati III rules by decree.

"It's good to be free," Mr Masuku told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He said he was feeling well, despite fears for his health during his long incarceration.

'Oppressive'

The opposition leader accepted that the judge had demonstrated that the judiciary was independent of the government but said the king should become a constitutional monarch - as in the United Kingdom.

"During the trial, the king has signed decrees day in and day out. When he does that, we will see him as a person that is oppressive," Mr Masuku said.

King Mswati III
King Mswati rules by decree

But he said that before restarting his political campaign, he had been told to take a week's rest.

After the verdict was announced, Mr Masuku told crowds of cheering supporters that he would continue to fight for political change.

"If it means going to... prison, we should all go there for the sake of democracy in Swaziland," he said, according to the French news agency, AFP.

Legal wrangles

During the seven-month trial, Mr Masuku told the court that he had only suggested that the king relinquish his traditional executive authority to prevent him from being used or abused by members of his government.

He was accused of calling for the king's overthrow.

The case was initially marred by legal wrangles.

There were revelations that the presiding judge had ceased to be a government employee.

Later, another judge declined to take the case when it was referred to him, claiming the accused was his half-brother.

The defence also claimed that the translation of Mr Masuku's speech from SiSwati into English had been faulty.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mario Masuku on BBC Network Africa
"It is good to be free"
See also:

19 Mar 02 | Africa
06 Feb 02 | Africa
04 Feb 02 | Africa
04 Feb 02 | Africa
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12 Dec 01 | Africa
19 Oct 01 | Africa
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
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