THE Crown will apply for a separate trial for former police commissioner, Molahlehi Letsoepa, if he does not appear in court along his with his co-accused when their murder trial finally begins.
This was revealed on Friday when the deputy leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Tšeliso Mokhosi and four police officers briefly appeared before the High Court judge, Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi on charges of murdering Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng in 2016.
Mr Letsoepa has repeatedly failed to show up since 20 March 2018 when his co-accused appeared for the first time in connection with the case.
Mr Letsoepa- who was appointed by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties coalition government in November 2015 – was sent on an involuntary 90-day leave pending retirement by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last year but he skipped the country shortly afterwards.
Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Lesego Makgothi, revealed in September 2017 that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) had requested him to return home from South Africa but to no avail as they intended to question him in connection with the murder.
And on Friday, Advocate Sehloho Mathe, who represents the prosecution, told Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi that Mr Letsoepa was not present in court “because he is still at large”.
“If he is still not present when the trial starts we will apply for separation of the trials,” Adv Mathe added.
Mr Letsoepa’s co-accused include the deputy leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Tšeliso Mokhosi and former Assistant Commissioner of Police, Tšeliso Moerane.
The other accused persons are Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Superintendent Mothibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Constable Haleokoe Taasoane who are all currently on suspension from the police force. The four police officers were present in court having been brought in from the Maseru Maximum Security Prison where they have been detained on remand since last year.
Mr Mokhosi was smartly clad in a blue suit, a white shirt and blue tie.
Some LCD and Democratic Congress supporters attended the court proceedings to show their solidarity with Mr Mokhosi.
The suspects are charged with murdering Constable Khetheng in 2016.
PC Khetheng was stationed in Mokhotlong and he was last seen being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane in Leribe on 26 March 2016.
PC Khetheng had been arrested and charged on allegations of torching the house of his superior in Mokhotlong district where he was deployed.
He was allegedly last seen with the Inspector Mofolo, PC Ntoane, PC ‘Mabohlokoa Makotoko and Senior Inspector Matona.
At the time, the LMPS argued that PC Khetheng left the Hlotse police station without permission and they did not know where he was. For its part, the Khetheng family argued that the police knew or ought to know where he was because they arrested him.
His father, Thabo Khetheng, lodged an application before the High Court on 18 July 2016 for the police authorities to produce him dead or alive.
PC Khetheng’s body was subsequently exhumed at Lepereng Cemetery in the Maseru district on 11 August 2017 after the police were granted a court order by the Magistrate’s Court in light of the investigations into his disappearance and suspected murder.
His remains were reburied that same month in his home district of Mokhotlong.
And on Friday, Justice Monaphathi postponed the case to 12 June 2018 because their case has not been allocated to a judge.
“This case is postponed to be allocated to a judge and the intention is to get a judge elsewhere, who is not one of us (who is not a local judge).
“It is postponed to 12 June for mention. I am only presiding over it today because I am a judge on call,” Justice Monaphathi said.