More agony for detained soldiers

More agony for detained soldiers

Staff Reporter

MASERU

SOLDIERS awaiting trial in the Maseru Maximum Security Prison for allegedly plotting mutiny will have to exercise more patience after their case was postponed to September 6.

The 23 soldiers have been in military detention and some been in solitary confinement since May and June last year when they were arrested.

They are accused of hatching a plot to topple army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and to kill officers close to him.

The prosecution says they were working closely with the then army boss, Maaparankoe Mahao, who was later killed in what the army called an operation to arrest him.

When their case was supposed to be heard on Monday in the Court Martial, the court President Major General Mojalefa Letsoela was told that there was a pending appeal in the Appeal Court Martial.

A team of lawyers appearing for the detained soldiers, Advocates Christopher Lephuthing and Monaheng Rasekoai, told the court that the Appeal Court Martial president and other members of the panel were yet to be appointed.

The Appeal Court Martial president is appointed by the Chief Justice from among High Court judges while other panellists are appointed by the Defence Minister from the army officers.

Lephuthing told thepost that the panellists are expected to be gazetted tomorrow.

“After their appointment and after being gazetted they will then start studying the case and there are a lot of documents they will have to go through,” Lephuthing said.

The soldiers, through their lawyers, want Major General Letsoela to recuse himself from the case because he is “not fit to preside over the case”.

Lephuthing and Rasekoai argue that Letsoela was promoted to the rank of major general to specifically preside over the Court Martial while he was junior to some of their clients.

Their argument is that Letsoela does not qualify to try some of their clients like Brigadier ThorisoMareka whom they say are his seniors.

Letsoela refused to step down as the Court Martial President hence their decision to go to the Appeal Court Martial.

One of their arguments is that Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi’s decision to appoint Colonel Bulane Schele as an assistant to the prosecution was wrong.

They argue that Sechele cannot be a prosecutor in his own case because he is one of the army officers whom the alleged mutiny plotters were going to kill.

Sechele also led an operation that killed Mahao, the man who was fighting for the position of army commander with Kamoli after the former premier Thomas Thabane fired Kamoli and replaced him with Mahao and when he lost power to the current Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili that decision was reversed.

Their other argument was that the Court Martial did not have jurisdiction in this case because the accused soldiers have not committed any military offence.

They say the prosecution’s charges that the soldiers plotted mutiny during a period when Kamoli had been fired and Mahao was the appointed commander were illogical.

Mahao could not plot to mutiny against himself, they argue.

They argue that if these soldiers plotted together with Mahao to kill some officers who were resisting the removal of the fired commander Kamoli, it was not mutiny.

The prosecution is expected to file their arguments in the Appeal Court Martial once it is established.

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