Why detained soldiers want financial help

Why detained soldiers want financial help

MASERU – TWENTY-SEVEN soldiers facing trial for murder, attempted murder and mutiny want the state to help pay their legal fees because the cost of their legal fees has ballooned beyond their means.
They told the High Court this week that their legal battle over the past two years had drained them financially.

This follows Justice Charles Hungwe’s instruction last week that the soldiers file affidavits explaining why they deserve more help with their legal fees.
In their notice of motion, the soldiers said they wanted the pro deo fee of M400 per day granted by the Registrar, Pontšo Phafoli, increased.

Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, who filed the main affidavit, told the court that they would need strong legal representation because of the gravity of the charges they face.
“All these charges that we are faced with attract death penalty or lengthy terms of imprisonment should we be convicted,” he said.

Capt Nyakane said they have been in custody for close to two years and the several postponements to their cases have come at huge legal costs to them.
He said it is anticipated that their lawyers would spend substantial time on their cases due to the serious nature of their charges.
“We have engaged senior counsel. The prosecution has already indicated that in CIV/T/0004/2018 alone, it is going to call more than 50 witnesses more than four of which are expert witnesses from outside Lesotho,” he said.

“All of these factors taken together speak to the serious nature of the cases we are faced with.”
He said to illustrate that theirs are high profile cases the government has sought assistance from development partners, SADC and EU, to hire foreign judges.
Three judges have been appointed to preside over the cases.

The state has hired Shaun Abrahams, a former national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) of South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, to lead the prosecution.
Capt Nyakane said this shows that their charges are serious. He said while accepting to appoint applicants’ lawyers on a pro deo Registrar Phafoli advised them to apply to the court if they want a variation to their fees.

Capt Nyakane said during the period of incarceration, spanning close to two years now, they have engaged lawyers on a variety of legal matters, including application and re-application for bail.
He said their legal matters also include application for witness statements and numerous court appearances that include remands in the Magistrate and High Courts.
And this also covers where their matters were supposed to proceed but failed or stalled for months because judges had not been appointed.

‘‘Whenever our matters were supposed to proceed before the High Court, they would be postponed because the prosecution would inform the court that the cases are high profile and a decision has been taken that they be tried by judges from outside Lesotho,’’ Capt Nyakane said.

He informed the court that they had to wait for the judges’ arrival and “sometimes it would be the remanding judge who would inform us that the Registrar has informed the court that the cases cannot proceed as preparations are in progress to appoint judges from outside the country”.

“Furthermore, before the magistrate court we appeared before court on a number of times with our legal representatives only for our cases to be postponed for the reason that police investigations are still ongoing and that the DPP has not yet issued a directive.”

Itumeleng Khoete

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Next Metsing’s second coming

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