Ex-police officer fabricated torture story, court told

MASERU — The case in which a former police officer is suing the police commissioner for alleged torture suffered at the hands of fellow officers resumed on Tuesday with one of the accused alleging that the officer had made up the story.

Bokang Letele who retired from the force six months ago is claiming M3.6 million from Police Commissioner, ‘Malejaka Letooane, and the Attorney General Tsókolo Makhethe for the alleged torture that took place eight years ago.

He alleges that three officers took him from his base at Thetsane Police Station, and drove him to Mphorosane where he was tortured severely.

But on Tuesday Sergeant Paul Tota who is one of the officers accused of torturing Letele told the court that Letele had fabricated the story. 

 “I never assaulted Letele. I was heading the team which took Letele to Butha-Buthe where he was going to point at the AK47 rifle which was said to have been in his possession,” Tota said.

“He is fabricating the story.”

The police had accused Letele of participating in the robbery that occurred at Metro Cash and Carry in Butha-Buthe in 2001.

Tota told the High Court that he did not know why the gun was demanded from Letele as he was just acting according to instructions from his superiors to take Letele to Butha-Buthe.

He said he was not aware of the alleged robbery charges against Letele.

“I was only ordered to take Letele to Butha-Buthe for him to point out at the gun. He had told the police that the gun would be found from someone called Lesia.

Letele was arrested from Thetsane Police Station, where he was based, by members of the police’s Special Operations Unit.

“We went to a place called Mphorosane where we found Lesia, but Lesia told us that the gun had been taken to Matsieng in Maseru.

“It is not true that we took him (Letele) to Mphorosane to assault him. In fact he was not assaulted,” Tota said.

Letele had earlier on told the court that the police officers, including Tota, had fastened him with a rope and suspended him in the air under the Mphorosane Bridge as part of the torture.

He said the intention was to kill him but a vehicle emerged and the driver asked the police officers what they were doing.

“They immediately took me back into the vehicle and drove away,” he added.

Letele had said the police officers then took him to a nearby cliff where they also suspended him in the air with the intention to kill him.

But they later changed their minds, he said.

Also testifying on Tuesday was the former officer commanding Butha-Buthe police ‘Matsólo Kou.

Kou said Letele was locked in the police cells in Butha-Buthe where he was facing charges of house-breaking and theft.

Letele’s lawyer Advocate Thulo Mahlakeng told Kou, during cross examination, that the police officers’ stories differed on why Letele was arrested.

Mahlakeng said the police’s different stories prove that Letele was arrested for no other clear reason except to torture him.

“The fact that there are different stories why Letele was arrested leaves the conclusion that he was arrested for no apparent reason.

“The evidence for this is that Letele has never been taken to court to answer either robbery or house-breaking and theft charges,” Mahlakeng said.

Mahlakeng also told the court that Tota’s testimony carried no weight in the case because he had been present since the beginning of the proceedings and therefore could have coached himself.  

“There is no point for allowing him to testify, yet the court cannot attach any weight in his evidence,” Mahlakeng said.

Tota sat in court next to the lawyer representing the defendants when the case started in November 2006 because he is accused as one of the perpetrators.

The defendants’ lawyer is Advocate Mosito Mapetla.

Justice Tséliso Monaphathi had made a ruling that Tota should not be considered a defendant because the defendants in court papers were the police commissioner and the attorney general.

He was ordered to sit away from Mapetla.

But Mapetla on Tuesday told the court that Tota’s presence during court proceedings could not prohibit him from testifying.

“The fact that he has been implicated throughout the case I think it’s fair for him to either admit or deny the allegations against him,” Mapetla said.

Mapetla also asked the court to go to Mphorosane where Letele is alleged to have been hanged in the air at the cliff and bridge.

But Mahlakeng opposed Mapetla’s application saying it came after all witnesses had testified.

Monaphathi still has to make a ruling on whether there is need to visit the place or not.

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