Senior PUDEMO official arrested for treason

A senior official of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a banned political party, has been arrested for treason on charges related to the petrol-bomb attacks on Swazi government targets last year.

Bonginkosi Dlamini, the PUDEMO secretary-general, will be tried with 13 other party members in connection with nearly a dozen bombings in the latter half of 2005 that targeted the homes of police officers, government officials and government buildings, according to a police spokesman.

Damage was minimal and no injuries were sustained, and to date no one has claimed responsibility.

Dlamini is also being charged with sedition for uttering anti-government statements. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

The secretary-general, who has reportedly been in contact with Amnesty International regarding the arrest of the 13 PUDEMO members, was taken into custody on Thursday when he returned to Swaziland from his South African workplace, the offices of the pro-democracy NGO, Swaziland Solidarity Network, in Johannesburg.

Dlamini came to Swaziland to check on one of the arrested PUDEMO members, whose wife died after being interrogated by police, reportedly of heart failure.

Organised political opposition groups were banned by royal decree in 1973 by King Sobhuza, father of current monarch, Mswati III.

A government source suggested that the authorities would follow a strategy of referring to the alleged fire bombers as terrorists, and rebuff attempts to label them as political prisoners.