FORMER army commander Tlali Kamoli and Major Pitso Ramoepane have been remanded in custody to 23 January 2019 when they are expected to stand trial for attempted murder and murder respectively.
It is expected that by then the foreign judges who have been earmarked to try their cases will have arrived in the country.
Lt-Gen Kamoli is facing 14 counts of attempted murder in connection with the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesaiah Thabane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.
He is charged alongside Major Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Sergeant Heqoa Malefane and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko.
Major Ramoepane faces a separate murder charge in connection with the 5 September 2017 assassination of army commander Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo.
Lt-Gen Kamoli, Major Ramoepane and their co-accused on Tuesday appeared before High Court judge Justice Molefi Makara for the attempted murder case.
Major Ramoepane also appeared for the Motšomotšo murder case. The court proceeded despite the absence of the defence lawyers after the suspects informed Justice Makara that they had no objections to the proceedings.
Justice Makara remanded both cases to 23 January 2019, saying that the prosecution had assured him that the foreign judges who will try the cases will have arrived in the country by that date.
“Are you aware that your counsels are not before the court and I do not know whether they have made an arrangement with you to continue without them?” Justice Makara asked.
Lt-Gen Kamoli responded on behalf of the suspects by saying, “Let it be so my Lord.”
Justice Makara then stated that “the crown applied for this matter to be postponed to 23 January 2019”.
“What is encouraging is that on that day they are sure the matter will be set down. Similarly, to you Mr Ramoepane, your case has been remanded to 23 January for set down,” added Justice Makara.
This is the second Christmas that Lt-Gen Kamoli will spend behind bars after he was arrested and detained in October 2017.
He also faces a murder charge stemming from the 30 August 2014 killing of Police Sub-Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko.
Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was shot and killed by soldiers during the attempted coup of 30 August 2014 at the Police Headquarters in Maseru. The soldiers who allegedly acted on the instructions of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Kamoli, also raided several other police stations in Maseru and seized an assortment of weapons.
The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) has said that the continued detention of Lt-Gen Kamoli and other soldiers is a gross violation of human rights as they are indirectly serving sentences without being convicted by the courts.
Lt-Gen Kamoli has expressed his displeasure with the recruitment of foreign judges to try his and other soldiers’ cases. He argues that local judges are just as competent.
However, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mokhele Moletsane, has said that the decision to engage foreign judges was taken to protect local judges from possible victimisation and backlash from trying the “politically sensitive cases”.
Mr Moletsane said while the local judges were competent enough to try the cases, the government and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) still felt it necessary to engage foreign judges because the cases in question were politically sensitive. He further said that the verdicts of the foreign judges were less likely to be viewed as biased.
“It has never been about the incompetency of local judges as the government believes they are capable enough to preside over the cases.
“However, the government and SADC agreed that due to the nature of the cases which are said to be politically sensitive, it would be best to source foreign judges because local judges are at risk of being victimised for the verdicts they would give for the cases,” Mr Moletsane said.