‘No more leg-irons for fugitive soldier’

gen tlali kamoliBy Nat Molomo

MASERU — Second Lt Thabang Phaila, a Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) member charged with mutiny over the 1998 post-electoral riots, has been kept in shackles every night since he was arrested on October 5 2013.

Phaila was nabbed by the Military Police (MP), fifteen years after he fled the country over charges that he was one of the key masterminds of the mutiny.

The Lesotho Times has established that Phaila has been kept in leg irons at night since his arrest two months ago.  The former soldier is nevertheless unshackled during the day but confined to a tiny cell to prevent his escape.

Phaila was court martialled this week.

During the Monday morning proceedings, Phaila’s defence team comprising Advocate Sakoane Sakoane (KC) and Advocate Motia Teele argued that it was inhumane to keep him shackled even when he is locked up in a cell.

The team argued that there was nowhere in the Lesotho Defence Act No.4 of 1996 or any other law, where provision is made for detainees to be chained while in their cells.

It was then ruled by the court-martial during the afternoon session that Phaila will no longer be kept in leg-irons while in custody.

The ruling was handed down by the president of the six-member court-martial Colonel Matela Matobakele.

The ruling follows an application by Teele KC, who also on the day announced that he was handing over Phaila’s case to Advocate Sakoane Sakoane due to a hectic schedule.

Prosecutor Captain Bulane Sechele assisted by Lt. Ts’oene Nkuebe, did not object to the submissions to have Phaila unchained.

“We support that the chaining should cease with immediate effect because that is not in line with the Defence Act,” Sechele said.

Although the chaining allegations were based on statements made solely by the accused Phaila, Sechele said he had no problems in conceding to the request by Phaila’s lawyers.

“Whether it is true or not the gist of the matter is that there is no rule or law to support the chaining of accused in the cell,” Sechele said.

In its ruling the court said that “chaining of suspect is not supported by law”.

Phaila is charged, amongst others, with taking part in the intended mutiny contrary to the provisions of section 48 (2) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act N0.4 of 1996.

According to the charge sheet, in between the months of July and September 1998, in the districts of Maseru and Mafeteng, the accused unlawfully held several meetings with the late Ex-Private Hosanna Sako, the late retired Warrant Officer Makotoko Lerotholi, Ex-Lance Corporal Ts’oeu Ts’ukulu, Reverend Thabo A. Monyau, retired Warrant Matheolane G Mafoea and other persons unknown to the prosecution “with intent to overthrow lawful authority of the LDF”.

The meetings resulted in Phaila’s failure “to use his utmost endeavours to prevent intended mutiny contrary to the provisions of section 49 (a) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act No.4 of 1996”.

“The accused unlawfully and intentionally failed to use his utmost endeavours to prevent the intended mutiny during and/or after several meetings held with Ex-Private Hosanna Sako and others,” the charge sheet reads.

Phaila is also charged with desertion while on active service, an offence which carries a five-year jail sentence. The principal charge of participating in the mutiny carries a twenty year sentence.

Phaila is expected to appear before the court-martial again on December 23 and 24.


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