By Tefo Tefo
MASERU — Six former Precious Garments factory workers who are on death row on Monday begged the Court of Appeal to quash their sentences imposed by the High Court three years ago.
High Court Judge ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane found the six — five men and a woman — guilty of brutally killing their boss at Precious Garments, Peter Mokheseng.
Mokheseng was murdered about 200 metres from his home in Qoaling on the outskirts of Maseru.
Three of the inmates, Kutoane Kori, Thabiso Mothobi and Bokang Molongoana were sentenced to death.
Molai Mosoaboli was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, Lesaoana Molomo was sentenced to 15 years with Nokoli Hloloane getting a 10-year jail term.
The six however appealed against both the conviction and sentence.
On Monday, lawyers for the convicts asked the Court of Appeal to overturn Hlajoane’s judgment.
Advocate Lepedi Molapo, who is representing Mothobi, said his client should not have been convicted on the basis of an alleged confession he made to the police.
“It is improper for the court a quo to convict him (Mothobi) on the basis of the alleged confession he made to the police.
“The said confession is inadmissible as evidence in court. The court should not have relied on such evidence,” Molapo said.
Mothobi is facing the gallows over the murder.
During the trial, the police told the court that Mothobi confessed to killing Mokheseng.
But Molapo said the failure by the crown to present the confession statement in court was a clear indication that there was no confession that was made.
Molapo also argued that Molongoana, who is also facing the death sentence, should be set free.
He said the witness who told the High Court that she saw Molongoana shooting Mokheseng had lied in court.
“The witness who told the court that she saw Molongoana shooting the deceased was not truthful.
“She could have not seen clearly because of the light conditions at that place,” Molapo said.
Molapo said even if his clients were found guilty of murder the court should have found extenuation circumstances on their behalf.
“The sentences were too harsh. Even if they were convicted of murder the court should have found extenuating circumstances which would lessen their punishment.
“But we are now saying this court should find them not guilty of murder because the evidence adduced in the trial court was not sufficient to secure conviction,” Molapo said.
Advocate Pitso Ntséne, who represented Kutoane Kori, said the High Court had convicted his client on the basis of the accomplice witnesses whom he said were unreliable witnesses.
“They (accomplices) failed to disclose their role in the commission of the offence. This makes them unreliable witnesses because an accomplice witness should also disclose his or her contribution in the commission of crime.
“It is also improper for the trial court to convict on the basis of the accomplice witness whose evidence has not been corroborated. In this case the evidence of the accomplice witnesses was not corroborated by any evidence,” Ntséne said.
The High Court was told during the trial that Kori had planned the killing of Mokheseng.
He was sentenced to death after the High Court found that he was the master-mind behind the operation.
Kori was a personnel manager at Precious Garments while Mokheseng was the managing director.
It was heard during the trial that the two had serious differences over the running of the factory.
The factory is located in the Maseru Industrial Area.
The only woman in this case, Nokoli Hloloane, was convicted after the court found that she was an accessory during the commission of the offence.
She allegedly led Mokheseng’s murderers to a traditional healer in Leribe for a ritual to conceal evidence in the case.
However, the crown counsel Motséi Tlali told the Appeal Court that the appellants were correctly convicted.
“The trial court has decided correctly in convicting the accused. My submission is that the appeal should be dismissed,” Tlali said.
The Appeal Court is expected to pass judgment on the matter at the end of its session on October 23.