Three lawyers face jail for contempt

Three lawyers face jail for contempt

MASERU-THREE lawyers who are representing soldiers accused of murder are facing a seven-day jail sentence for contempt of court.
High Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe has issued an ultimatum for the lawyers, saying they should give reasons within two days, why they should not be locked up.

Justice Hungwe issued the ultimatum after the lawyers failed to appear before him on Monday in a case in which their clients are facing murder charges.
If convicted, the soldiers could be sentenced to death.
An irate Justice Hungwe said he would issue a warrant of arrest for the three lawyers if they failed within 48 hours to give cogent reasons why they failed to appear in court.

The three lawyers are Advocates Karabo Mohau Karabo, Napo Mafaesa and Lintle Tuke.
Meanwhile, Justice Onkemetse Tshosa, who was also roped in to deal with the high-profile cases, expressed concern over the delays which he blamed on the defence lawyers.

Justice Tshosa said it had become a habit for the defence lawyers to fail to turn up in court without providing any reasons.
“This forces us to postpone cases with the hope that in the next appearance they will be there,” Justice Tshosa said.

And the experience he has with the case is that when two lawyers are present, a third one would not come.
He said this has been the trend.
“We are not making progress due to the absence of counsel.”

Justice Tshosa said he had failed to visit or spend time with his family while sitting here so that he could be able to do his duty as an appointed judge.
He said it seems like the lawyers “have turned the courts into a playground and do not want to proceed with these criminal cases”.

Advocate Napo Mafaesa, in an affidavit filed in court yesterday, said that he was not aware that the case was coming for hearing.
Advocate Mafaesa said he checked the weekly roll and found that the case would be in court only for mention.

He said he asked a colleague to stand in for him, unaware that the matter would proceed to trial.
He said it had been standard practice that any lawyer can stand in for others in court when a case comes for mention.
“Therefore, I was not in court and ready to proceed with the case as a result,” he said.

He also said he did not speak to his client, Private Mohlalefi Seitlheko, after he received information that pro deo counsel had been appointed for him by the Registrar of the High Court.
“I awaited client’s decision whether he continues with me or with the pro deo counsel appointed and did not receive any communication from him until the alleged contempt date,” he said.

He said on November 17 he visited Private Seitlheko in prison who narrated to him what had happened in court.
He said he informed him that there was no communication of the date of hearing or whether he would engage his services or continue with the pro deo counsel.

Advocate Karabo Mohau also added that he was not aware of the proceedings of the case as he received the court order at 12:25pm, instructing him to show cause why he could not be jailed, after he was done with his other cases.

He said he failed to appear before the judge because the crown explained they would not proceed with the so-called high-profile cases until after the Constitutional case in which he is challenging the suitability of Justices Hungwe and Tshosa as High Court judges.

Advocate Lintle Tuke said there was miscommunication between him and the court.
He was in another court when Justice Hungwe issued the order.

Itumeleng Khoete

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