Court to set date for editor’s shooting trial

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Mohalenyane Phakela

THE Maseru Magistrates’ Court will on 10 November 2021 set the trial date of the four soldiers who have been charged with the attempted murder of former Lesotho Times editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri.

It had been expected that the date would be set yesterday but the prosecutor, Rethabile Setlojoane, told Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Murenzi that he was still preparing the record of the pre-trial conference. He asked for the matter to be postponed to 10 November 2021, saying he would have prepared the record by then.

Mr Mutungamiri suffered near-fatal gunshot wounds in a July 2016 attack allegedly by the army officers.

Initially five soldiers, namely, Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Colonel Khutlang Mochesane, Nyatso Tšoeunyane, Mochesane Phusumane and Maribe Nathane were charged with the attempted murder of Mr Mutungamiri.

Phusumane was however, turned into a state witness in September 2019 and released from prison.

But the defence lawyers argued that Mr Phusumane should not be a state witness as he was privy to all the defence outlines since he was consulted by the lawyers long with the other accused persons.

The lawyers had initially applied for the trial to be stayed to allow them to file a constitutional application to challenge the decision to turn Phusumane into a state witness.

However, one of the defence lawyers, Kabelo Letuka, yesterday told the court that they had resolved to abandon the constitutional litigation.

“We have received instructions from our clients to abandon the constitutional application because it was premature on the basis that the person in question (Phusumane) may or may not testify. May the trial proceed,” Adv Letuka said.

Magistrate Murenzi then postponed the matter to 10 November 2021 for the setting of the trial date.

Mr Mutungamiri’s July 2016 shooting followed a traumatic week for the publication during which then Lesotho Times journalist, Keiso Mohloboli, was also summoned for interrogation by police and military officials in connection with a story about the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

The story was about the negotiations for an exit package for the then army commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, in line with a Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommendation for his removal from post.

The Lesotho Times’ publisher and chief executive officer, Basildon Peta, was also charged with criminal defamation arising from a complaint laid against the newspaper by Lt-Gen Kamoli over the satirical column, Scrutator.

Two days after Mr Peta appeared in court, Mr Mutungamiri was shot. One bullet broke two of his right-hand fingers and another shattered his lower jaw, requiring him to undergo specialised dental surgery to manage the jaw and to remove a bullet that lodged behind his left ear. He also sustained eye injuries after broken window glasses entered and cut his eyes, among other facial injuries.

The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) said that its investigations revealed that the attempted assassination of Mr Mutungamiri was an operation authorised by the army.

 

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