HIGH Court judge, Justice Molefi Makara, will today decide whether or not to release army officer, Mahanyane Phusumane, from prison where he is currently detained for allegedly shooting Lesotho Times editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, in July 2016.
Phusumane (37) from Masowe, Maseru, is one of five army officers awaiting trial for the attempted murder of Mr Mutungamiri. The Editor was shot at his home in Upper Thamae in Maseru in the late hours of 9 July 2016 after knocking off from work.
His fellow accused are Brigadier Rapele Mphaki (47), Khutlang Mochesane (57), Nyatso Tšoeunyane (41) and Maribe Nathane (35).
Justice Makara on Monday reserved his judgment on whether to grant Phusumane bail to today after his lawyer Advocate Molise Molise had pressed for his release, arguing that he was not a flight risk and would therefore not flee the country.
Advocate Molise said Phusumane had conducted himself well from the time he was summoned to the office of the Military Police until he was hauled to court to face a charge of attempted murder. This showed that he would stand trial to finality if released on bail.
“The petitioner (Phusumane) explains that he was summoned to the Military Police where he was told to report himself to the police which he duly did,” Advocate Molise said.
“He cooperated with the police and he was taken to court for remand.
“All these events show that he is not a flight risk because if he had an intention to flee he could have done so the minute he was told to report himself to the police.”
Advocate Molise also told the court that his client qualified for bail on health grounds. His health book “clearly shows he has been suffering from a lung and breathing problem for a long time”.
“Even the respondent did not deny these averments. We submit that he should be released on bail because prison conditions are not conducive to his health.”
But the lawyer who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the crown, Advocate Thulo Hoeane, strongly opposed Phusumane’s bail application.
“Indeed, I assisted my learned friend to get the petitioner’s health book from the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS).
“But I did not anticipate that my learned friend would come to court and try to interpret the contents of that book because he is not a medical expert.
“We do not deny that the petitioner is sick but it is only an expert who testify to the severity of the illness.
“The question is how to consider the severity of his sickness that can warrant his release on bail.
“LCS nurse, Chief Officer Mahanyane Putsoane made an affidavit and said the petitioner is regularly afforded treatment whenever he requires it. This health book is of not much assistance to his case to be released on bail,” Advocate Hoeane argued.
He also argued that the fact that Phusumane reported to the police when called upon to do so was not guarantee that he would not abscond if released on bail.
“Now that he knows that he is facing a serious charge of attempted murder, he can easily abscond if released on bail. His flight cannot be ruled out simply because he is a Lesotho citizen.”
After hearing the defence and prosecution arguments, Justice Makara set today as the day he would deliver his judgment.
Phusumane and his co-accused are in any event also expected to appear before the Magistrate’s Court today for the court to set the trial date for their attempted murder charge.
Their case will proceed before Senior Resident Magistrate, Phethise Motanyane, after it was re-allocated to him from Resident Magistrate, Polo Banyane, two weeks ago.