SADC bod­ies to ob­serve court mar­tial

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

The trial of 23 Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) mem­bers ac­cused of plot­ting to over­throw their com­mand would be at­tended by in­ter­na­tional ob­servers when it re­sumes next week.

The trial was ad­journed on 9 Oc­to­ber 2015 and re­con­venes on 1 De­cem­ber.

Bri­gadier Poqa Mo­toa, Bri­gadier Tho­riso Mareka, Colonel Ste­mere, Colonel Kolisang, Ma­jor Makhetha, Cap­tain Chaka, Sec­ondLieu­tenant Mo­hasi, Sergeant Mokhobo, Sergeant Se­makale, Sergeant Lekhabun­yane, Cor­po­ral Mokhoro, Cor­po­ral Let­si­lane, Cor­po­ral Lipoto, Cor­po­ral Manaka, Cor­po­ral Mo­hat­lane, Cor­po­ral Chele, Cor­po­ral Mot­seko, Lance-cor­po­ral Jobo, Lance Cor­po­ral Molefi, Lance-cor­po­ral Makhooane, Pri­vate Pama, Pri­vate Bolofo and Pri­vate Ral­itlemo were ar­rested and de­tained be­tween May and June this year and have since been charged with mutiny.

The sol­diers’ re­peated at­tempts to be re­leased from Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Prison have been un­suc­cess­ful, much to the frus­tra­tion of their lawyers and fam­i­lies.

One of the de­tained sol­diers’ lawyers, Ad­vo­cate Tu­misang Mosotho, yes­ter­day told the Le­sotho Times that when the trial re­sumes next week, of­fi­cials from the Jo­han­nes­burg­based South­ern African Lit­i­ga­tion Cen­tre, South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, and hu­man Rights In­sti­tute of South­ern Africa, would be among sev­eral in­ter­na­tional ob­servers in at­ten­dance.

Ad­vo­cate Mosotho also re­vealed the de­fence team would be fil­ing a host of griev­ances against the mil­i­tary when the trial re­con­venes.

“We are con­cerned with the state of mind of th­ese sol­diers due to their soli­tary con­fine­ment. The ques­tion is whether our clients are in the right state of mind to prop­erly in­struct their lawyers,” Ad­vo­cate Mosotho said.

“An­other ma­jor con­cern is we are only al­lowed 20 min­utes to con­sult with th­ese sol­diers. To make mat­ters worse, our clients are not af­forded the nec­es­sary pri­vacy to con­sult with us. When we meet, the door is al­ways open so the sol­diers can­not speak freely with our le­gal team.

“It is wor­ry­ing that peo­ple who could be handed death sen­tences are de­nied am­ple time to con­sult with their lawyers.”

Ad­vo­cate Mosotho fur­ther said the sol­diers can only be vis­ited for 15 min­utes a day by their fam­i­lies.

“We are not the only ones who are be­ing de­nied enough visi­ta­tion hours; even their fam­ily mem­bers can only see them for 15 min­utes a day since the soli­tary con­fine­ment started (last month). It used to be five min­utes but when the soli­tary im­pris­on­ment started, the time was in­creased to 15 min­utes.”

Ad­vo­cate Mosotho said th­ese re­stric­tions would be among the com­plaints the lawyers would be rais­ing in the Court Mar­tial.

Asked about an Amnesty In­ter­na­tional on­line cam­paign ti­tled ‘23 risk un­fair trial and the death penalty’, Ad­vo­cate Mosotho said he was aware of it.

“The cam­paign shows that the world is watch­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in this coun­try. Lo­cal civic or­gan­i­sa­tions were la­belled sup­port­ers of the op­po­si­tion when they ex­pressed con­cern over the sol­diers’ tor­ture and also sought their re­lease.

“how­ever, it is now ev­i­dent that th­ese civic groups had gen­uine con­cerns and now the world has joined them in protest­ing against the abuses,” said Ad­vo­cate Mosotho.

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