Back up ‘poverty’ claims says judge

Back up ‘poverty’ claims says judge

MASERU – HIGH Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe yesterday ordered soldiers who are facing murder and attempted murder charges to file their affidavits giving reasons why the State should pay their legal fees.
Forty soldiers are set to face trial over the cases.
The soldiers include those who are being charged with the murder of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao in 2015 and Sub Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko a year earlier.

Justice Hungwe’s decision comes after the suspects filed an application asking the government to assist them pay their legal fees to allow the trials to continue.
In their heads of argument, the soldiers said they have been appearing before the courts for the past two years without any significant progress on their cases.

Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, who is representing some of the accused, said their main issue was to determine if the accused should provide the court with evidence to support their claim.
He however told the court that he does not see any need to provide proof for their claim.

Attorney Letsika further informed the court that if it insists they bring the evidence where each accused person will have to bring witnesses and documents to show their desperation, more expenses will be incurred.
He said this would be costly for the 40 soldiers.
Former LDF Commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and other top army officers are amongst the soldiers who are seeking the government’s help in paying their legal fees.

Attorney Letsika said their clients had already spent a lot of money coming for remands with their cases failing to proceed to trial.
He said this had been burdensome for their clients because each time they appear before court, they have to pay their legal representatives.
And this is what they have been doing for the past two years, the court heard.
Crown counsel Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai argued that each accused person will have to substantiate why they need the government to assist them pay their legal fees.

He said it would not be fair for the government to pay for all the accused persons yet some still have the means to pay their legal representatives.
Advocate Rasekoai argued that the problem faced with one accused person could not be the same for all the suspects.
“So it is for this reason that they should give evidence why they need the government to foot their court fees,” Advocate Rasekoai said.
“The circumstances of each individual cannot all be the same,” Adv Rasekoai argued.

“I submit that Your Lordship has to be provided with all evidence to determine whether they qualify or not,” he added.
He further told the court that it is the Registrar who has to determine and find the accused persons’ legal representatives if they are cash-strapped.
But Attorney Letsika hit back that the Registrar has already had introspection on that.

Justice Hungwe pressed that the applicants should file their affidavits to give out reasons why they need help.
He said the application should be filed before August 26.
He also ordered the respondents to file their replying affidavits before August 28.
This case was then postponed to August 30 for hearing.

Itumeleng Khoete


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