Soldiers want judge out

Soldiers want judge out

MASERU-THE crown says it wants all those convicted of the murder of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao to face the death penalty.
Nine soldiers, who include former army commander, Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, are standing trial for Mahao’s murder.
The other eight are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Morasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.

“Should this Honourable Court return a verdict of guilty on the charge of murder or in respect of any of the alternatives thereto, the Prosecution will seek the imposition of the death penalty,” reads the Crown’s address to the court.
But in a fresh twist to the case, the suspects filed an application on Tuesday asking High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe to recuse himself arguing they are convinced he was going to make sure they are hanged.

The accused soldiers said Justice Hungwe will be biased leading to one outcome: a death sentence.
“We are apprehensive that the judge is biased against us,” Sergeant Fako said in an affidavit.
“We are charged with various crimes and some of which the Crown stated that it seeks the death penalty,” he said.
“With such serious charges we are faced with and the Court being content with the manner in which the Crown conducts the case demonstrates that the judge is not impartial.”
Sergeant Fako said Justice Hungwe, having been handpicked by the government to specifically preside over their case, “is going to benefit financially and he is likely not to approach the case impartially”.

“The conduct of the judge made us to lose confidence in him to uphold our fair trial rights,” he said.
He said during his bail application Justice Hungwe had accused him of being “part of the gang or military officers who took down the deceased”.
“The conclusion and classification of an army operation as a ‘gang’ suggests that the learned judge has already made a finding that we were acting improperly and unlawfully in effecting the arrest,” he said.

“It is clear on reading the judgment that the learned judge not only restricted his reasoning to the facts before him concerning the bail application but he went further to traverse the very merits that form the subject of the current criminal trial.”

Sergeant Fako said his conclusion is that Justice Hungwe said the statements “because he concluded that we are guilty of wrongdoing”.
He said on another day Justice Hungwe was angry at Lt Gen Kamoli and stated that he had heard of his attitude in the past.
“It is clear that the learned judge takes into account certain extrajudicial information and is privy to some information that is not known to us,” he said.

“I cannot second guess what he knows about me. But the fact that he uttered such words against General Kamoli is a clear indication that he is disqualified to preside over our trial because he is privy to some information about him…which he received from other sources than in the course of judicial proceedings.”
Supporting Sergeant Fako’s affidavit, Lt Gen Kamoli said he “reasonably fears that because of these words, the learned judge is not likely to try us fairly because he takes into account extrajudicial statements”.

“To date I do not know who informed (him) about my attitude,” Lt Gen Kamoli said.
“This only serves to show his bias towards us and he is not likely to bring (an) unbiased mind to bear on the trial facts,” he said.
“I reasonably foresee that he will still rely on the extrajudicial statements to our prejudice and to make conclusions to our prejudice.”

Lt Gen Kamoli said the Crown has already indicated that it would like them hanged “and this fact alone makes it imperative that we should be tried by an independent and unbiased judicial officer so that if we are sentenced to hang the process is fair and our families will not have any suspicions”.

Staff Reporter

Previous Brace for fireworks!
Next Judge warns Thabane

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