HIGH Court Acting Judge Justice Keketso Lesihla Moahloli yesterday ordered Brigadier Poqa Motoa’s release from solitary confinement in the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.
Brigadier Motoa is among 18 soldiers in the prison awaiting trial by a Court Martial for allegedly plotting a mutiny last year.
He is also one of the said soldiers Justice Molefi Makara, on 16 October 2015, ordered they be released and placed under “open arrest” but remain in detention following their arrest between May and June 2015.
But Brigadier Motoa on 29 December 2015 was placed in solitary confinement for allegedly failing to comply with instructions to clean his cell’s surrounding.
His wife, ‘Mampelo Motoa on 30 December 2015 filed an urgent application in the High Court after her husband’s lawyers were denied access to see him.
Ms Motoa also alleged her husband was placed under solitary confinement because he had refused to water vegetables inside the prison.
The application called upon the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to ensure Brigadier Motoa was brought to court to explain his personal circumstances following the solitary confinement.
The Brigadier appeared before court on 31 December 2015 and told Justice Motoa that he was being denied access to his medication.
The judge then ordered he be allowed access to the medication.
Justice Moahloli postponed the case to 13 January to argue the main application.
Yesterday Justice Moahloli ordered that Brigadier Motoa should not be placed under solitary confinement but refrained from granting the order that he should be released from prison and put under open arrest as Justice Makara ordered in October last year.
The judge said he could not make that order because there was a pending case in which army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli is accused of a contempt of court for failing to release the detained soldiers despite Justice Makara’s judgment.
“In view of the fact that I am aware that there is an application which is related to these prayers, I find it difficult to make an order on prayers ‘d’ and ‘c’ as I am aware that the proceedings are at an advanced stage on the contempt application; and I thought a lot about this,” he said.
The prayers he was referring to relate to compelling the army commander to comply with Justice Makara’s judgment to release the detained soldiers that include Brigadier Motoa.
“I have decided that to avoid unnecessary confusion and conflicting orders of this court, I have decided not to make orders in prayers 2(d) and (c),” he added.
But when reading the judgment, Justice Moahloli said Justice Makara’s ruling should have been complied with because it had not yet been overturned by any court .
“My learned brother Makara’s judgment, as we speak, still stands and it has not been set aside either by recision, review or appeal.
“Although the respondents say they have appealed against the said order, it remains in force because they have not obtained an order to stay the order,” he said.
The judge further ordered Lt-Gen Kamoli to ensure that Brigadier Motoa is not assaulted in prison.
But the judge declined to grant the prayer that Brigadier Motoa should not be punished.
Justice Moahloli said Lesotho Defence Force Regulations stipulate how an imprisoned soldier should be disciplinarily dealt with.
The regulations, he added, provide for punishment that includes placing a detained soldier under solitary confinement.
However, the judge said there was proper procedure to be followed.
Meanwhile, Acting Judge Justice John ‘Musi is today expected to hear an application in which the 18 detained soldiers want Lt-Gen Kamoli to be found guilty of contempt of a court order that said they should be placed under open arrest.