Justice Maqutu appointed to Court Martial

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Tefo Tefo

FORMER High Court judge, Justice Winston Churchill Maqutu, yesterday took an oath as the Judge Advocate for the Court-Martial which will try three army officers accused of mutiny in relation to the events that led to the death of former army commander, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo, in September last year.

Justice Maqutu was sworn-in by the Court Martial president, Brigadier Mabote Phillip Sekoboto, in Maseru yesterday.

The other members of the Court-Martial are Lieutenant Colonel ‘Mammohi Mofelehetsi, Lt-Col Motseki Kanetsi, Major Sera Lekoatsa, Major Tseko Nthakong and Major Madondolo Rakhoro.

The military court will hear the case in which Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Boiketsiso Fonane and Captain Litekanyo Nyakane are accused of mutiny in relation to the events that led to the killing of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo at Ratjomose Barracks on 5 September, 2017.

Two senior army officers, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi were also killed during the incident.

In another count, the three officers are also charged with failure to suppress mutiny in relation to the same events.

Justice Maqutu was appointed Judge Advocate after the previous Judge, Advocate Brigadier Khomo Mohobo, recused himself from the case in December 2017 following an objection by the accused soldiers’ lawyers to his participation in the proceedings.

Major Ramoepane is represented by King’s Counsel, Karabo Mohau assisted by Advocate Kabelo Letuka. Captain Boiketsiso Fonane is represented by Advocate Letuka Molati, while Captain Litekanyo Nyakane is represented by King’s Counsel Motiea Teele.

The defence lawyers objected to the participation of Brigadier Mohobo on the grounds that he would be biased.

The case was postponed for the Minister of Defence, Sentje Lebona, to appoint a new Judge Advocate.

The prosecution has also tightened its team with the additions of Attorney Koili Ndebele, Advocates Thulo Hoeane and Rethabile Setlojoane who will prosecute the case.

The prosecuting team was appointed after Captain Leholi Motikoe, who was the prosecutor, also recused himself in December after the defence lawyers objected to his participation.

After being sworn-in Justice Maqutu made a stern warning against all parties involved in the case to avoid adjudicating on the matter basing on information obtained outside the confines of the court.

“It is the duty of every judicial officer to remove his mind against rumour either in the media or elsewhere,” Justice Maqutu said.

“Sometimes it happens in this court that people might have heard or witnessed some things happening in relation to the proceeding case as members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

“You are advised and should take heed of this advice to remove all the information you have in mind, but only base yourselves on the facts as placed before this court. You should only base yourselves on the evidence adduced before this court.

“You should not be influenced by anything happening outside this court.”

The case was postponed to Monday next week after Advocate Mohau sought for postponement on the grounds that one of the defence lawyers, Advocate Teele, was not present as he was attending another case before the High Court.

Adv Mohau said it was not proper to proceed with the case in absence of Advocate Teele because there might be some preliminary procedural issues to be raised, “therefore it is important that every accused person is represented so that whatever decision is made he is fully represented”.

The president of the court, Brigadier Sekoboto, expressed his dissatisfaction that the case was not proceeding, saying “there was a notice of trial to the effect that the trial starts today throughout this week”.

“I order that we should, at least proceed on Friday this week and if that lawyer is still not able to come he should send another lawyer to stand-in for him,” Brigadier Sekoboto said.

But Advocate Mohau brought to the president’s attention that the decision to set this week for trial was made unilaterally by the court.

“We had initially agreed on the dates of the 14th and 17th May 2018 basing ourselves on our diaries.

“We only received notice of set-down when we already had other matters in other courts for these dates,” he said.

It was after Adv Mohau’s address that Brigadier Sekoboto reconsidered his order and said: “The case will then proceed from the 14th May 2018 to the 17th May 2018.”

Major Ramoepane is also facing a murder charge in the civilian courts for the murder of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo.

He further faces 14 counts of attempted murder before the High Court alongside the former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, in relation to the bombings in the three houses of the first lady ‘Maisiah Thabane, former commissioner of police, Khothatso Tšooana and one ‘Mamoletsane Moletsane in January 2014.

Captain Nyakane is also charged with the murder of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko at Police Headquarters on 30 August, 2014 during an attempted coup allegedly staged by the army. He is charged alongside Lt-Gen Kamoli in this case.

They are all detained in the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.

 

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