MASERU — Six men from Leribe are suing Police Commissioner ’Malejaka Letooane (pictured) for M590 000 for injuries they allegedly suffered when they were brutally tortured by the police at Pitseng Police Station five months ago.
Three of the men are claiming damages to the tune of M90 000 each for injuries suffered, “emotional suffering” and wrongful detention.
The other three are demanding amounts ranging from M100 000 to M140 000.
Their lawyer, ’Mathabo McCloy, wrote to the commissioner on August 10 demanding that she pays the damages. The Lesotho Times is in possession of this confidential letter.
In that letter McCloy says her clients Boiketlo Mapota, Lehlohonolo Kali, Lebakeng Selise, Molahlehi Mphou, Thapelo Morothetsane, Pekane Morothetsane and Rets’elisitsoe Moshoeshoe were wrongfully detained at Pitseng Police Station on April 10.
She claims that they were also tortured and emotionally hurt.
The complainants allege that on that day they were called to the village chief’s home in Makhoaneng Ha-Mosito in Leribe where they were informed that a certain Mahase Mohloai, a bar owner in the area, was accusing them of assaulting one of his customers.
They were accused of robbing the customer of his cellphone and M230 during the attack.
The customer was only identified as Mosiuoa. The complainants, according to McCloy, denied the allegations.
“There were neither physical signs of assault on the man alleged to have been assaulted nor any other evidence,” McCloy said in her letter.
“However, the chief asked the bar owner what he considered to be the best course to be taken and in response he said they should be taken to the police for beating,” she said.
Chief Khojane Molapo then wrote a letter to the Pitseng police and requested that his messenger deliver the letter and accompany the six men to the police.
On arrival at Pitseng Police Station, the letter was handed to a certain policeman who only identified himself as Posholi.
Posholi allegedly asked the complainants to produce the stolen goods but they denied the accusations.
They were locked up in a cell, McCloy said.
After about 30 minutes, according to McCloy, the suspects were taken out of the cell one at a time. This is when the beatings started.
“Whoever was called was beaten severely with what is commonly known as phafa-ea-kubu (a hardened plastic whip) and also a handle of what is commonly known as kepi (a pick),” McCloy said.
It is alleged that the beatings were accompanied by verbal insults and further accusations of other thefts by Posholi.
After the beatings they were locked up again.
“Morothetsane was later separated from the others and transferred into a cell which was then inhabited by a madman or a lunatic,” McCloy said.
“It is alleged that the lunatic was aggressive and demanded this inmate to take off his clothes.”
The detainees were released on April 12.
No statements were taken from them.
The bar owner who complained to the chief about them was never called to the police for a statement.
The customer was not called.
On release the complainants requested medical forms for them to seek treatment but they were denied.
“It is alleged the Pitseng police told them to obtain medical forms from Hlotse or Leribe station while the
latter referred them back to Pitseng station.”
The medical forms were never given.
Lebakeng Selise had his right arm fractured, the left wrist swollen and his buttocks were bruised.
The lawyer said Selise’s fractured arm was treated with a plaster cast which had to be replaced after six weeks because the splinter had not united.
Though the wrap cast has since been removed, the arm is allegedly still painful and is kept in place with a sling, McCloy says.
Selise is claiming M70 000 for personal injuries, M50 000 for emotional suffering and M20 000 for wrongful detention.
His total claim is M140 000.
All complainants had their buttocks bruised. They also had bruises all over their bodies.
“It is a well known principle of the law that a person, any person, under any circumstance, is not guilty unless found guilty by a court of law,” said McCloy in the letter.
“The policeman in question and the Pitseng police station are thus liable for arbitrary and cruel assaults and wrongful detentions.”
“Since the above were acting in the course of employment, the Commissioner of Police is vicariously liable.”