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Army says soldiers detained on fresh charges

by Sunday Express
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Brian Chiwanza

The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) has denied ignoring a ruling made by Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane in the High Court on 5 October 2015 ordering the release of three soldiers detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison for suspected mutiny.

Advocate Lehooli Motikoe, who is representing the LDF in the case, on Tuesday told the High Court the soldiers were released four days after the ruling and  rearrested shortly after on fresh charges.

Advocate Motikoe told the court it was therefore, not true the LDF was in contempt of the judgment as the soldiers were allowed to leave the prison before their re-arrest. The lawyer further submitted there was a video confirming the soldiers’ release.

However, Advocate Khotso Nthontho, who is representing the soldiers, told the court his clients were only released for 36 minutes, which he called “superficial”, before they were arrested once again.

Advocate Nthontho insisted the LDF was in contempt of court because his clients were never set free in the true sense of the word.

The three soldiers in question are Lance Corporal Aupa Mohasi, Lance Corporal Toma Nehemia Jobo and Corporal Molato Mohatlane.

Advocate Nthontho told the court: “The LDF disobeyed the court order by not releasing the soldiers to their homes. They were released at 15:04hrs and re-arrested at 15:40hrs. The LDF says they were released and if so, where are they now? People were released and suddenly arrested for contravening section 48 and 49 of the LDF Act 1996 (mutiny and failure to suppress mutiny respectively). It’s a new phenomenon.

“There was no compliance, and no release. They willfully refused to take the order, flouted laws and the applicants are languishing in prison. The question is where, when and how, inside 36 minutes, they were released and suddenly arrested.”

In his affidavit presented before the court, Corporal Mohasi denied the release, noting: “We were made to sign the Occurrence Book and believe that we were being released. We duly signed the Book because it is impossible to leave the prison without any proper documentation.

“After we signed, we were taken back to the prison cells where we were made to sign remand warrants again and told we were under arrest.”

On his part, Advocate Motikoe explained what transpired on the day in question.

“On 9 October, the three applicants were told they were being released. The applicants were ordered to pack their belongings and allowed to exit detention, but they were re-arrested for contravening section 48 and 49.

“We are saying at the time of release, they were free; this is a fact that is not being denied. We are saying the arrest made after the release was a different arrest; it was a fresh arrest and detention.

“Signing the Occurrence Book was an indication that they had fully gained their liberty. The question is whether that is not compliance with the court order.

“The first respondent (LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli) released the applicants and had a genuine belief that was the correct way to comply with the order.  The first respondent even made sure a video was captured which remains evidence of the release.

“If ever this honourable court finds that the order was not complied with, the non-compliance was not deliberate. The first respondent genuinely believed he was complying with the order by releasing the applicant the way he did.”

Meanwhile, in his affidavit, Lt-Gen Kamoli noted: “I deny that the applicants were arrested at the prison but after being discharged …and far away from the compound of the Maximum Security Prison.

“The evidence of the release was captured in the camera footage carried by Lieutenant Kelebone Mothibi.

“I deny that they were forced to sign warrants without clear explanation. I aver that two of the applicants voluntarily decided not to sign the warrants on the basis that they wanted to show them to their lawyer while Corporal Mohatlane voluntarily signed.”

The LDF Commander, Director of Military Intelligence and Attorney General are cited as first to third respondent, respectively in the case.

Justice Hlajoane postponed the case to 17 November 2015.

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