Thabane faces sedition charge

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ABC Leader & Former Prime Minister Dr Thomas Thabane & his wife ‘MaIsaiah Thabane from Magistrate court on Tuesday addressing ABC supporters

Tefo Tefo

FORMER premier Thomas Thabane is facing sedition charges for his remarks about King Letsie III during a press conference in Maseru last month.

The All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader appeared before the Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of sedition and contravening provisions of the Penal Code of 2010 and Sedition Proclamation 44 of 1938.

Dr Thabane is accused of uttering words at the press conference held at the Basotho National Party (BNP) centre on 7 March 2017 to the effect that His Majesty may be removed from his position.

His remarks against His Majesty were sparked by the dissolution of parliament which King Letsie III made in accordance with the advice of outgoing Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili whose seven parties’ coalition government lost a no confidence motion sponsored by the opposition bloc in Parliament on 1 March 2017.

Dr Thabane is charged with the intent to “bring into hatred or contempt and/or to excite disaffection against the person of His Majesty, and/or His heirs or successors and/or the Royal Family and/or the Monarchy as by law established”.

He is also charged with the intent to “excite His Majesty’s subjects or inhabitants of Lesotho to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means of His Majesty and/or the Monarchy as by law established; and or raise discontent or disaffection amongst His Majesty’s subjects or the citizens or inhabitants of Lesotho;

“And/or promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of the Kingdom of Lesotho.”

In another count of contravening section 79 (2) of the Penal code, Dr Thabane is charged with “unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly committing an act(s) calculated to violate the dignity and injure the reputation of His Majesty”.

He is also charged with contravening section 90 of the Penal Code of 2010 by allegedly attacking the judgements of the Lesotho courts of law.

He was released on bail on his own recognisance – a legal principle that means one is released on bail without paying any bail deposit.

However, his lawyer Advocate Haae Phoofolo King’s Counsel (KC) made damning allegations before court that the charges preferred against the former premier were only meant to act against him and his party during the present snap election campaign.

“I know at this stage the accused is not expected to tender his plea to the charges.

“But I want to place on record that this case is persecution against my client,” Advocate Phoofolo said.

“May I take this court backwards? The now called accused has been the Prime Minister in this country.

“Now that he is being dragged to court in relation to what he said in political arena is nothing but persecution.

“It is just to drag his name and the name of the party he is leading into disrepute, particularly in this election campaign period,” he said.

He further said: “I am not saying he should not be charged. I am only saying is it necessary at this time?

“Now he is going to be referred to as the accused by his rivals during their campaign.”

In response Senior Crown Counsel Advocate Lesaoana Mohale said: “We don’t understand the basis for the submissions made by my learned friend.

“If he objects to the charges there is a procedure that he must follow.

“Regarding persecution that he alleges he should also lay the basis for his averments.”

In reply Advocate Phoofolo said: “Your Worship, since the accused relinquished power about two years ago he has never had peace in this country.

“He even had to go on exile. Is this not persecution?”

However, the court ordered that he be released and not attend remands.

The lawyers are expected to go court again on 2 May this year to set a date of hearing after Advocate Mohale told the court that the investigations have already been completed.

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