Judicial bungling sabotages soldiers’ trial

Judicial bungling sabotages soldiers’ trial

MASERU-GROSS judicial bungling this week sabotaged the trial of eight soldiers who are accused of killing three men and throwing their bodies into Mohale Dam.

The soldiers have been in custody since their arrest in 2017.
Their trial was supposed to proceed on Monday when it was revealed that recorded witness statements, crucial to both the defence and the prosecution, were missing.

Advocate Stafford Sharitte, the High Court’s deputy registrar, told the court that the recorded statements went missing in March.
Advocate Sharitte said he only found the statements two weeks ago when Major Pitso Ramoepane’s lawyer approached him with a letter he wrote to the High Court Registrar requesting those records but they could not be found.

Advocate Sharitte said he then found the records and submitted them to the IT department for transcription, which has dragged on for more than two weeks.
He said he had been told that the woman transcribing the records has only done two of the several statements that the court needs for the trial to proceed.

Advocate Sharitte said the Covid-19 pandemic also delayed the transcription because court officials were working in shifts.
He said he was not sure why the transcription was taking long.
Attorney Qhalehang Letsika said the accused soldiers made it clear they were not prepared to face trial unless those records are available.

He suggested that the court should hire private transcribers to help speed up the process.
Crown counsel Advocate ’Naku Nku also said they need the records because the pre-trial conference is based on those witness statements.

Justice Onkemetse Tshosa postponed the case to September 28 but said he was worried that the suspects have been wallowing in custody for too long.
Justice Tshosa instructed Advocate Sharitte to expedite the transcription.
Eight soldiers, who include a brigadier who is the commander of Military Intelligence, are alleged to have abducted, tortured and strangled the three men before dumping their bodies in Mohale Dam.

The suspects are Brigadier Rapele Mphaki (Military Intelligence commander), Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Private Nthathakane Motanyane, Warrant Officer Liphapang Sefako, Lance Corporal Machai and Private Faso.

Itumeleng Khoete

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