Kamoli faces fresh contempt charges

0

 

Tefo Tefo

LAWYERS representing 22 soldiers detained at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison say they are considering filing another court application to have Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli charged for contempt.

This comes after the LDF failed to release the soldiers in line with a ruling made by High Court judge Justice Molefi Makara on 5 October 2015.

Justice Makara cleared Lt-Gen Kamoli of the charge on 16 October 2015 saying he had not understood the ruling, but ordered the LDF to comply with order and release the detainees with immediate effect. The High Court ruled the soldiers, who were detained between May and June this year for suspected mutiny, should be placed under open arrest and attend their trial by a Court Martial while coming from home.

However, the soldiers remain in custody and their plight has allegedly since worsened as they are now in solitary confinement, according to their lawyers.

The soldiers in question are Brigadier Thoriso Motoa, Colonel Stemere, Colonel Kolisang, Major Makhetha, Captain Chaka, Second-Lieutenant Mohasi, Sergeant Mokhobo, Sergeant Semakale, Sergeant Lekhabunyane, Corporal Mokhoro, Corporal Letsilane, Corporal Lipoto, Corporal Manaka, Corporal Mohatlane, Corporal Chele, Corporal Motseko, Lance-Corporal Jobo, Lance-Corporal Molefi, Lance-Corporal Makhooane, Private Pama, Private Bolofo and Private Ralitlemo.

King’s Counsel (KC) Haae Phoofolo, who is representing the detained soldiers, yesterday told the Lesotho Times that defence team was planning to file another application against Lt-Gen Kamoli.

“We are contemplating filing another contempt application against the commander,” Advocate Phoofolo said.

“But again, what is the purpose of going to court when the court says something must happen and it doesn’t? After the court ordered that the soldiers should be released, the LDF acted as if they had released them only to take them back to prison.”

Advocate Phoofolo said the detainees were made to sign arrest warrants on 21 October 2015 “which gave the impression that they had just been arrested”.

“The arrest warrants were issued in terms of Section 86(1) of the LDF Act (1996) and they were issued by Major-General Lineo Poopa (LDF chief of staff),” said Advocate Phoofolo.

“The arrest warrants were issued to them immediately after they were taken out of the prison gates, so that it would appear as if they had just been arrested.”

He said the detained soldiers were also made to sign remand warrants to regularise their continued stay in prison.

“The remand warrants were issued in terms of Section 87. Most of the detainees refused to sign the documents and as a result, their continued detention remains unlawful,” Advocate Phoofolo said.

“Only four of them have signed the documents. These are Corporal Manaka, Corporal Motseko, Lance Corporal Makhooane and Lance Corporal Jobo. The others refused to sign them which means they are being kept without arrest and remand warrants.”

Advocate Phoofolo further said the LDF’s attempts to regularise the soldiers’ detention were still in contempt of the court order.

“No matter what they did, the facts still remain. The soldiers were not released as ordered by the court. We are still going to file an application for contempt of court,” said Advocate Phoofolo.

“From my viewpoint, it seems we are living in a lawless state. We experienced this kind of attitude by soldiers during the military regime when the court would order that people should be released, only to be re-arrested immediately after their release.

“The army did the same thing in 2007, and these are the habits of a military state and not a democratic country where there is a bill of rights.

“Where there is a court order for the release of a person, it should simply be effected.”

Asked when they would make the application, Advocate Phoofolo said he could not commit to a date in light of recent social media reports of a “hit list” which also includes the detainees’ lawyers. The detained soldiers’ legal team also consists of Advocates Christopher Lephuthing, Koili Ndebele as well as Attorneys Khotso Nthontho and Tumisang Mosotho.

“We have now learnt of a hit-list of people who have allegedly been targeted for elimination, and the five lawyers representing the detainees are part of that list,” he said.

“Since we do not know who is behind this list, we are concerned about our welfare because we are not sure when these so-called attackers will pounce.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, the LDF’s legal representative in the case, Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, dismissed Advocate Phoofolo’s accusations that the army did not obey the court’s orders.

The continued detention of the officers, he pointed out, was within the law since the 16 October ruling ordering their release was made after the “necessary measures to keep the detainees had already been made”.

“As far as the LDF is concerned, the assertion that they are not obeying court orders is not correct. By the time the court made the order, it had already been overtaken by events. They had already been given due hearing,” Attorney Letsika said.

“One of the soldiers was brave enough to make his representations and was duly placed under open arrest after considering his situation. But I can’t disclose his name now because I didn’t get the mandate from my clients to do so.”

He added: “Our position is that the LDF is prepared to abide by the law, otherwise why would they engage lawyers?

“If they (detainees’ lawyers) were honest in suggesting that there has been any contempt, they should have filed an application immediately after discovering the contemptuous act.”

 

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.