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DPP responds to murder-accused soldiers

  • says they should be kept in prison because they are threat to national security

Mohalenyane Phakela

SOLDIERS accused of high profile crimes such as the 25 June 2015 murder of army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao should remain in detention because they are threat to national security and state witnesses, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, has said.

Adv Motinyane also said the soldiers should remain in custody pending the finalisation of their trials for their own safety because they angered the public who might harm them in revenge for allegedly committing heinous crimes.

The DPP said this in response to a Constitutional Court application by two soldiers, Motsieloa Leutsoa and Tšitso Ramoholi, for release on bail on the grounds that their rights were violated due to prison conditions which were unfit for human habitation.

The duo are among several soldiers accused of the 2015 murder of Lt-Gen Mahao and the murder of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko during the attempted coup against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 30 August 2014.

Their application for release on bail was heard by the Constitutional Court bench comprising of Justices Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane, Keketso Moahloli and Polo Banyane on Thursday. The judges reserved judgement to a date to be announced.

Their application was moved by Advocate Napo Mafaesa while Adv Christopher Lephuthing appeared for the DPP.

In their application, the two soldiers complain that the holding cells are in a filthy, unhygienic state and therefore not fit to accommodate human beings.

“The holding cells at the Lesotho Correctional Service are overcrowded, unhygienic and filthy,” Motsieloa states in his founding affidavit.

“A cell sometimes is flooded with 20 plus inmates and when nature calls, detainees help themselves in the presence of others. Further they (detainees) keep their food parcel under the same conditions. A mattress meant for one individual is shared by three people and blankets are scant. Tuberculosis and abscess diseases are rampant in the prison. One does not get medical assistance constantly and sometimes one waits for a week to see a doctor. Medication is very limited at the Lesotho Correctional Service health clinic. I must state that my request to visit a doctor was declined after I complained that I have ran out of prescribed medication.  We are forced to use 20 litre buckets to bath ourselves with cold water as there are no geysers. Ticks are very dominant in the cells. The toilets do not have running water and we have to collect water before we are locked up at 3pm and the collected water does not sustain occupants of a single cell up to the following morning.

“There is food scarcity and since our arrival at Lesotho Correctional Service the only food we know of is pap, beans and cabbage with a porridge in the morning.  We are given very little to eat and the reason given is that government` does not have a budget for inmates’ food.”

Motsieloa also states that he has a medical condition which requires him to undergo surgery in Bloemfontein worth M400 000 but cannot do so while in custody.

He states that the alleged deplorable prison conditions constitute an exceptional circumstance which justifies their release on bail “hence our (Constitutional Court) application”.

However, all this was disputed by Adv Motinyane who instead argues for the continued detention of the soldiers on the grounds that they are threat to national security.

“I wish to emphasise that the criminal trials under consideration have attracted public attention and anxiety given the crisis which resulted from the killings of people and political instability in the Kingdom. It is for their own safety and that of the witnesses that they must remain in custody pending finalisation of their criminal trials. The applicants must remain in custody because of the risk they pose to national security. Some of the co-accused have already skipped the country to avoid prosecution and applicants are likely to abscond trial if released on bail.

“The alleged scarcity of food at Maseru Central Correctional Facility is not an “exceptional circumstance” that warrants the release of the applicants on bail.

“I confirm that the health of inmates is a priority of the LCS. I have verified with its management that every inmate is allowed to consult medical doctors as and when required.

“It does not appear clearly from the evidence of the deponent that he (Motsieloa) reported his alleged health problems to prison authorities in an identifiable manner because health professionals at the prison might have weighed the risk and potential danger the deponent is exposed to if not taken to Bloemfontein. The requirement for proof of “exceptional circumstances” includes the duty to adduce sufficient admissible evidence to support the claim that the prospective operation of the deponent (Motsieloa) will require an estimated amount of M400 000 at Bloemfontein which the government is not willing to pay,” Adv Motinyane states in her replying affidavit.

LCS Assistant Superintendent Neo Moramotse also submitted a supporting affidavit, arguing that Motsieloa is fit to stand trial as he has been afforded medical treatment with his next check-up only due in October 2020.

“The proper reading of the entire health record (of Motsieloa) indicates that the deponent obtained treatment for spiral nerve compression and is in a stable condition at the present moment. An allied aspect of this fact is that he is scheduled for check-up next year in October.

“I have reliably been informed that it cannot be true that there are insects and or ticks at prison. There are health inspectors who regularly inspect the place. The fact that the deponent (Motsieloa) twisted the facts in a way that besmirches the integrity of the detention facility warrants that disciplinary measures be taken in terms of the law.

“The true state of affairs is that prisoners cannot eat meat everyday as the applicants would wish. There is an agreed standard menu across all the prisons in Lesotho. The issue of scarcity of food does not arise at all. We also have open door policy in terms of which inmates are allowed to eat food from their families,” Ass Supt Moramotse states.

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