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Swaziland police fire tear gas on protesters

Friday - 7/6/2012, 1:12pm  ET

By PHATHIZWE-CHIEF ZULU
Associated Press

MBABANE, Swaziland (AP) - Swaziland police fired tear gas and beat stone-throwing protesters, chasing some down into a hospital, after a demonstration held Friday in support of teachers demanding higher wages.

An Associated Press reporter saw the turmoil at the end of the march, in which about 2,000 parents and teachers wound their way from a park and bus station in Mbabane, the capital, to a labor court where judges were considering a demand by the government that leaders of a teachers' strike be arrested for contempt of court and disrupting education. It was unclear when the judges would rule.

The protesters were dispersing after the teacher's union president addressed them outside the court room, but police nonetheless fired tear gas. Some protesters responded by throwing rocks. Police then began beating protesters, chasing some into the corridors of a nearby hospital. Police were also seen beating bystanders.

At the start of the march, police had fired tear gas to try to keep about 500 protesters from joining other marchers.

Teachers calling for 4.5 percent increase in salaries have been on strike for two weeks.

Swaziland, a kingdom enveloped by South Africa, has been struggling with economic problems for more than a year.

The economic problems have fueled calls for government reform in the southern African country, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarchy. But the government's brutal response to protests, and reluctance among some tradition-minded Swazis to challenge King Mswati III, have smothered a larger pro-democracy movement.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)