Court frees trio af­ter 3 years in jail

Lesotho Times - - News - Tefo Tefo

THE Court of Ap­peal on Mon­day re­leased three peo­ple con­victed of killing an ini­ti­ate woman for rit­ual pur­poses three years ago af­ter find­ing them not guilty of the crime.

In a case presided by Court of Ap­peal Pres­i­dent, Jus­tice Kananelo Mos­ito, Jus­tice Lisebo Chaka-makhooane and Jus­tice Moses Hungwe Chin­hengo, the court or­dered the re­lease of Ny­atso Rata­lane (67) ‘Map­o­lao Pitso (73) and ‘Matumelo Mafenoane (37).

The court noted in its rul­ing that re­tired High Court judge, Jus­tice Kelello Guni, had wrong­fully con­victed the trio of mur­der fol­low­ing the death of Matšeliso Mokhathatso on 12 Oc­to­ber, 2005 at an initiation school in Thaba-tseka dis­trict.

Mr Rata­lane was the owner of the fe­male initiation school where Ms Mokhathatso died, while Ms Pitso and Ms Mafenoane were the in­struc­tors.

Dur­ing the trial, the trio were charged with as­sault­ing the de­ceased and mu­ti­lat­ing her pri­vate parts.

Jus­tice Guni sen­tenced them to 10 years in pri­son on 16 De­cem­ber, 2012 where they were in­car­cer­ated un­til their re­lease.

In their ap­peal, which was lodged by Ad­vo­cate Khosi Le­suthu, the three called for their re­lease on the grounds that Jus­tice Guni erred by dis­re­gard­ing the med­i­cal doc­tor’s re­port which did not sup­port the al­le­ga­tion that the de­ceased’s pri­vate parts were mu­ti­lated.

Ac­cord­ing to the med­i­cal re­port, the de­ceased only sus­tained a head in­jury which the doc­tor said could have been the cause of death.

Ad­vo­cate Le­suthu said Ms Mokhathatso had a “men­tal prob­lem” and would be re­strained with a rope “when­ever she lost con­trol”.

He said the de­ceased en­dured spates of “spir­i­tual at­tacks” which she and her par­ents be­lieved would be re­solved through the initiation.

“One of the defence wit­nesses told the court that the head in­jury could have been a re­sult of the de­ceased hit­ting the wall as peo­ple were strug­gling to re­strain her with a rope,” Ad­vo­cate Le­suthu said.

“The judge (Jus­tice Guni) said the de­ceased died be­cause her pri­vate parts were cut off but did not make a find­ing on the cause of death.

“There was re­ally no ev­i­dence to sup­port the con­vic­tion given to the ac­cused.”

On be­half of the Crown, Ad­vo­cate Lehlanako Mofi­l­ikoane told the Court of Ap­peal that the pros­e­cu­tion did not have di­rect ev­i­dence link­ing the ac­cused per­sons to the com­mis­sion of the of­fence.

“We only re­lied on cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence but the de­ceased did not have in­juries when she went for initiation,” ar­gued Ad­vo­cate Mofi­l­ikoane.

“How­ever, her body had some in­juries af­ter her death, in­clud­ing the whip marks that were vis­i­ble all over her body.

“The only peo­ple that could be linked to her death are the owner of the school and the in­struc­tors.”

The Court of Ap­peal, how­ever, con­curred with the ap­peal, rul­ing that Jus­tice Guni’s find­ing that Ms Mokhathatso was mu­ti­lated con­tra­dicted the med­i­cal re­port that was pre­sented dur­ing the trial.

Said Jus­tice Chin­hengo: “We have con­sid­ered the ap­peal and we are sat­is­fied that the con­vic­tion of the ap­pel­lants is not sus­tain­able.

“The ap­peal is up­held and the ap­pel­lants are ac­quit­ted of the charges.

“The war­rant of lib­er­a­tion should be is­sued im­me­di­ately and full rea­sons of the judg­ment will be given at the end of this ses­sion.”

“The doc­tor had clearly stated that the cause of death was heart fail­ure.”

The Court of Ap­peal set the trio free im­me­di­ately with­out wait­ing for the date on which all judg­ments would be de­liv­ered.

Other judg­ments of the sec­ond ses­sion of the Court of Ap­peal, which started on Mon­day, would be de­liv­ered on 6 Novem­ber, 2015.

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