Armed robber says tortured in custody

Armed robber says tortured in custody

MASERU-A Maseru magistrate remanded a bleeding robbery suspect in police custody despite his fervent protests that he would continue to be tortured while he is still in holding cells.
A bruised Thabo Ramarothole, who is suspected of armed robbery and car theft in Mafeteng, appeared before the Maseru magistrate on March 25 for a remand.
He told the magistrates that police kicked, punched and beat him with gun butts. They also bound his hands and legs before taking him to the Airfield Police Post in a car boot where he was subjected to “brutal torture”.

A knobkerrie was used, he claims.
Ramarothole also showed the magistrate his bruises and blood-stained clothes.
He pleaded with the magistrates to not remand him in police cells because he feared the torture would continue.
His lawyer Advocate Napo Mafaesa said Ramarothole said he could rather be sent to jail that be held by the police.

The magistrate however ruled that he must remain in police cells and he must help with the investigations. This was after the police argued that they want to keep Ramarothole until investigations are completed.

His mother, ’Mamotlatsi, has since filed an urgent High Court application to reverse the magistrate’s order which he says was illegally granted.
’Mamotlatsi says she fears that the police will continue to torture her son.
In court papers Advocate Mafaesa says he doesn’t know the magistrate who remanded Ramarothole because the police are uncooperative. He is also unable to verify the records because the courts are closed due to the lockdown.

Advocate Mafaesa also says he is unable to meet his client in police custody and therefore doesn’t have details of his detention.
In an affidavit, ’Mamotlatsi says her son did not resist arrest when the police caught him in Mafeteng on March 24.
She describes how the police beat her son during the arrest.

“He was subjected to brutal torture,” ’Mamotlatsi says in the affidavit.
On March 26 ’Mamotlatsi filed an urgent application in the High Court seeking an order to force the police to bring her son to the court alive or dead.
The police complied with the order and brought Ramarothole before the High Court where he narrated his ordeal.
Ramarothole told the High Court that he was tortured by being beaten with a knobkerrie several times on his body.

He told the court that he collapsed several times as a result of the torture meted to him.
He said he fainted while being tortured in his cell.
However, he told the court, the magistrate granted the police application for his further detention without affording him any hearing.

“The learned magistrate ordered (Ramarothole) to assist police in their investigations,” ’Mamotlatsi says.
“This was done in violation of his pre-trial rights to legal access and fair trial.”
The High Court on March 26 ruled that it could not interfere with the magistrate’s order “because there was no application for review before it”.

That ruling has led to ’Mamotlatsi’s latest application.
The High Court however ordered the police to take Ramarothole to a doctor of his choice for medical attention.
Mamotlatsi says Ramarothole’s lawyers visited him in the police cells but the officers insisted that they should be present during the meeting.
“Consequently, (Ramarothole) was denied meaningful access to his lawyers,” ’Mamotlatsi says in the affidavit.

’Mamotlatsi says this is further indication that the police were bent on denying her son access to legal advice.
She says the procedure adopted by the magistrate at the hearing “was a gross departure from the ordinary procedure and ethical consideration” especially in the light of evidence of torture of Ramarothole while in custody.
“Thus (the magistrate’s) manner of handling the application of further detention of (Ramarothole) was at variance with the clear guidelines set out by the Constitutional Court,” she argues.
She says her son “needs proper caring and medical observation after the brutal torture he was subjected to”.

Itumeleng Khoete

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