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Don’t shackle suspects, says judge

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Nat Molomo

MASERU — The High Court on Thursday ordered that eight suspects on trial for trying to assassinate Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in April 2009 should not be shackled at night.
The order came after defence lawyer, Advocate Thulo Hoeane, complained to the judge at the beginning of the trial that the accused could not follow proceedings properly because they were shackled in leg irons.
Hoeane also said the suspects remained shackled even at night.
High Court judge Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo said according to the law, suspects could only be shackled while they are in transit. “I order this shackling of prisoners at night to stop immediately. How could they pose any danger when they are within prison walls?” Judge Thamsanqa asked.
However when the trial resumed on Friday, the suspects were still shackled with prison authorities saying they had not received a written order from the High Court.
A report by the Director of Lesotho Correctional Service had said the suspects were being shackled at night because they were dangerous.
The report said the prisoners were shackled day and night because there was information that there were some external elements that were plotting to help the suspects escape.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Leaba Thetsane, apologised on behalf of the crown for not carrying out Justice Thamsanqa’s order due to a misunderstanding over procedure.
Thetsane said the court order should be complied with while the prison authorities wait for the written order.
He noted that this was a high profile case and the accused must be accorded a fair trial.
Justice Nomngcongo indicated that since the order had been made in an open court, it should have been complied with.
“This should not have happened” warned Justice Nomngcongo.
The eight suspects are facing 31 counts which include attacks on the Makoanyane military barracks and the State House.
They are accused of attempting to stage a coup and assassinate Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on the night of April 22, 2009.
The accused are Solomon Mabasa, Antonio Jose Lopez, Rocky Masinga, Francisca Mandlate, Mangani Malenge, Angelo Mondlani, George Thomas, and Abel Nhantsave.

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