Soldier challenges mutiny ruling

Soldier challenges mutiny ruling

MASERU – MAJOR Pitso Ramoepane has asked the High Court to review the decision of the Court Martial to try him for mutiny when he is facing a murder charge on the same facts in civil courts.
The High Court is expected to deliver judgment on the matter in two weeks.
Major Ramoepane, who is facing charges of mutiny and failure to report or to suppress it, argued in court papers that he cannot be expected to answer to the charges in the Court Martial because his defence overlaps on his murder charge in the High Court.

Major Ramoepane is charged with others in the High Court with the murder of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo, in September 2017.
He filed an urgent application in the High Court last week, asking it to temporarily stay his prosecution in the Court Martial pending finalisation of his criminal case in the High Court or alternatively to stay it permanently.
In his affidavit Major Ramoepane said his lawyer told him that it was irregular for his trial before the Court Martial to proceed while he remained charged with murder arising from the same set of facts.

“It is highly prejudicial to my defence at the murder trial before the High Court that I should at the same time have to defend myself before the Court Martial on the same set of facts,” Major Ramoepane argued in the affidavit.
He said his right to a fair trial as enshrined in the constitution has been violated by his being put to his defence before the Court Martial even before the first crown witness has taken a stand in the criminal case in the High Court.

He also claims his right to silence and the right to be presumed innocent before the court trying him for murder.
He argued that the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996 expressly and/or by necessary implication precludes the Court Martial from proceeding to try a person for a military offence on the same set of facts constituting the basis for a crime of murder before a civil court.

He said the LDF Act provides for a decision by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) acting in consultation with the LDF commander “whether to proceed before a court martial or a civil court but definitely not for the two courts to proceed side by side on charges based on the same set of facts”.
“In the same vein, section 123 of the LDF Act precludes civil courts from proceeding with a case based on facts that constituted a basis for a trial before a court martial,” he said.

The Court Martial’s judge advocate, Justice Mathanzima Maqutu, made a verbal ruling in the plea in May last year but advanced the reasons in January this year dismissing the plea.
The prosecutor, Advocate Thulo Hoeane, had convinced the court that he would not lead evidence relating to the killing of Lieutenant General Motšomotšo.
“But that is precisely what he did,” Major Ramoepane argued.
He said he wanted to take Justice Maqutu’s decision on review but was unable to do so because he lacked funds.
“It was only in the past two weeks that I was able to raise funds to instruct my lawyers to bring this application.’’

Staff Reporter

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