Protest looms

Protest looms

Staff Reporter

MASERU

THE wives of detained soldiers have alleged that the army is ill-treating their husbands following plans by their children to stage a march.

The children are set to have what they are calling a “fun walk” on June 19.

But speculation went into overdrive this week that their intentions could have triggered retribution against their detained fathers.

There are allegations from the detained soldiers’ wives that since the “fun walk” was announced the army has been ill-treating their husbands.

They said the soldiers are being denied medication, access to their legal representatives and visitation hours have also been cut.

All this, they say, is a reaction to the “fun walk” which the wives say is meant to create a platform for the children to know each other.

Several wives of the soldiers who opted to remain anonymous told this paper last night that their husbands were so frightened at the mention of the “fun walk” that they pleaded with them not to be part of it.

“Mine told me that he was afraid that it was believed that they were the ones fuelling the “fun walk” and the protest marches that might be staged against the army,” one wife said.

“I could see his face that he was not only worried but he was afraid. He stopped short of telling me that he was being beaten,” she said.

Even lawyers are afraid to speak on record about the alleged torture lest their clients become targets.

However, those who spoke on condition of anonymity said their clients have formally told them that they were being maltreated.

Part of the maltreatment is allegedly a deliberate delay to give them food so that those who are on medical treatment may delay to take their pills.

“This is uncalled for,” said a lawyer.

The children’s fun walk had already attracted several informal groups in Maseru that would join them in solidarity.

Mothers who spoke to this paper said the children were planning to march around the city and get to know each other just like their parents know each other well.

Their fathers are well acquainted with each other because they are colleagues while their mothers came together as one when their husbands were arrested last year.

“Ever since the arrest of our husbands we have been together and attending the cases together and in the process we came to know each other well. So, our children did not have a chance to do that,” another wife said.

“They also said they want to break the silence and talk about their individual experiences. All the time the news media focused on us, their mothers and nothing was ever said about them,” she said.

The opposition has weighed in with a statement condemning the alleged harassment of the soldiers.

The All Basotho Convention (ABC) party youth league yesterday issued a statement condemning the alleged torture and strongly pledged its support to the “fun walk”.

“As the ABC Youth League committee we unequivocally support these families’ planned fun walk on 19/06/2016,” part of the statement reads.

“We strongly condemn the intimidation made against children of these detained soldiers because they were to hold a fun walk and we demand that this intimidation should cease forthwith,” it reads.

Army spokesperson, Colonel Ntlele Ntoi, denied that the army was ill-treating the detained soldiers.

“We got such a query but when I went to the facility where the soldiers are being held I found that it was not true at all,” he said. “The allegations are not correct. They are being fed on time.”

He also denied that there were soldiers being held in solitary confinement.

“I also heard that one of the legal representatives went to see his clients but he chose not to see them after he was granted entry into the facility,” he said.

“I am told that the second legal representative will visit tomorrow (today).”

Ntoi said there were specific times indicating when people should visit and when they should leave adding “this is nothing out of the ordinary”.

Those on medication are also getting their medicines at the correct times, he said.

“They are also allowed to see doctors of their choice.”

The army spokesman said the army is aware that there are people planning a “fun walk or something like that” adding there was nothing wrong with that as “this is a free country where people can march within the confines of the law”.

 

 

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