Lesotho Times

Soldiers’ lawyers fight court martial

 

Tefo Tefo

THE trial of the 23 suspected mutineers appears to be far from kicking off after the lawyers representing them on Tuesday told the Court-Martial that they intend to raise more objections when the court reconvenes in July.

The 23 soldiers stand accused of plotting to topple the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) command.

Their lawyers alerted the Court-Martial after the Court-Martial Appeal Court on Tuesday dismissed the accused army officers’ appeal in which they challenged the legitimacy of the Court-Martial.

When the Court-Martial convened on Tuesday after the judgment to map a way forward to proceed with the trial the lawyers representing the accused army officers said they had other objections to raise.

The lawyers were responding to Advocate Roland Suhr’s proposal that it was time for the accused officers to tender their plea to the charges they are facing.

But Advocate Christopher Lephuthing said it was not possible for his clients to plead to the charges because he had already applied for a permanent stay of prosecution against his clients before the High Court.

“In my considered submission if the Crown insists that the accused be called to tender their plea, indeed my clients would have to be tried separately,” Advocate Lephuthing said.

“This suggests that they cannot plead today because they have accordingly applied to the High Court for a permanent stay of their prosecution.”

He further alleged that the pending Amnesty Bill before parliament prohibits the Court-Martial to call his clients to tender their plea.

“Now there is before parliament that is called General Amnesty Bill and before that Bill is voted for or against no one should call my clients into the dock to plead,” he added.

The court suggested that the case be postponed to July.

For his part Advocate Koili Ndebele said they “don’t have any problem with dates being set but it has to be clear as to what should happen when we come back”.

“For me it is premature to tender any plea because we intend to raise objections in terms Rule 22, alternatively Rule 23.

“We intend to make an application for recusal of one member of this court,” Advocate Ndebele said, adding, “Another issue is that Mr Lephuthing has since applied for permanent stay of proceedings against his clients”.

Advocate Ndebele also said there was also the possibility of an appeal against the Court-Martial Court of Appeal judgment.

The case was postponed to 18 July this year.

The lawyers representing the accused army officers were ordered to file their intended objections by 31 May 2017, while the Crown is expected to file their answering papers by 30 June.

All 23 accused army officers are attending Court-Martial proceedings out of detention after they were all released from the Maseru Maximum Security Prison where they had been detained since May and June 2015.

 

Lesotho Times

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