Swaziland judge suspended for 'insulting king'

Swaziland's King Mswati (archive shot) King Mswati III has refused to introduce multi-party democracy in Swaziland

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A senior judge in Swaziland, Thomas Masuku, has been suspended for allegedly insulting King Mswati III.

Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi told the BBC that Judge Masuku is accused of using the expression "forked-tongued" in a ruling referring to the king.

Judge Masuku was quoted by AFP news agency as saying he would defend himself in the appropriate forum.

King Mswati III is an absolute monarch who has ruled the southern African state for more than two decades.

The AFP news agency reports that Judge Masuku described the king as "forked-tongued" in a ruling last year.

His judgement said that policemen had wrongfully seized cattle in the monarch's name.

"It would be hard to imagine that his majesty could conceivably speak with a forked tongue, saying one thing and authorising his officers to do the opposite," the ruling said, according to AFP.

'Suspension outrageous'

Chief Justice Ramodibedi told the BBC Mr Masuku also faced other allegations of "serious misbehaviour".

This included claims that he supported "regime change" in Swaziland, Chief Justice Ramodibedi said.

He told the BBC Mr Masuku would be investigated by the Judicial Services Commission.

"It would then make recommendations to his majesty, in terms of the constitution," the chief justice said.

The chairman of Swaziland's Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, Musa Hlope, told AFP the judge's supension was outrageous.

"If one reads these charges you can see somebody is painting Masuku as a bad guy in the eyes of the king," Mr Hlope said.

The Swazi monarchy banned political parties nearly 40 years ago, and has resisted opposition calls to introduce multi-party democracy.

In April, police fired teargas to break up pro-democracy protests organised by trade unions.

King Mswati III was crowned in 1986 at the age of 18, succeeding his long-serving father King Sobhuza II.

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