RETIRED soldier, Khutlang Mochesane, one of the five soldiers accused of shooting Lesotho Times and Sunday Express editor Lloyd Mutungamiri in a volley of bullets in July 2016, will have to wait for 1 October 2019 to know whether he will be tried from home or from custody.
Motswana judge, Kabelo Lebotse, heard Mr Mochesane’s bail application on Thursday and reserved judgement to 1 October 2019. This was after hearing arguments from both the petitioner’s lawyer, Advocate Kabelo Letuka and crown counsel, Advocate Thulo Hoeane.
Mr Mochesane is charged with attempting to kill Mr Mutungamiri, together with Rapele Mphaki, Nyatso Ts’oeunyane and Maribe Nathane. The fifth soldier, Mahanyane Phusumane, recently turned into a state witness and was released from prison.
The five waylaid and shot Mr Mutungamiri at dawn on 9 July 2016 at his Upper Thamae home and have been in custody at the Maseru Maximum Prison since November 2017.
In Mr Mochesane’s plea, Adv Letuka said his client should be released to effectively prepare for his trial and that he would not abscond trial because he had been cooperative with the police prior to his remand in custody.
“The petitioner was called to report to the Police Headquarters in Maseru on 23 November 2017 and agreed with the police that he would present himself on 27 November when he was detained until 29 November when he was released and asked to report back the next day,” Adv Letuka said.
“The next day he reported at 8am but was made to wait outside the police station until 1:30pm when he was taken to Magistrate Court where he was charged with attempted murder and remanded in custody. He was cooperative with the police from 23 to 30 November 2017 when he knew he was being investigated for attempted murder and that shows his willingness to allow justice to take its cause.
“He has a family and assets here in Lesotho and would not abscond. He also served in the army for 32 years. The crown in its papers is saying nothing about why the petitioner may be deemed a flight risk.
“Section 6(5) of the Constitution states that any person who is not tried within a reasonable time (six months) while in custody may be released on conditions set by the court. We pray that he may be granted bail so that he can also prepare for his trial as he cannot access his lawyers effectively while in custody.”
However, Adv Hoeane countered and argued that Mr Mochesane was facing a serious offence therefore may abscond trial. He said the petitioner could not be trusted by the court because he had given contradicting statements in his affidavit where he, at one point, denies and at another point agrees to have shot Mr Mutungamiri.
“The accused is facing a serious crime of attempted murder and due to the stiffness of the punishment he is likely to get, he may abscond. He should not be congratulated for reporting to the police, which was the right thing to do. He only knew about his charge when it was read in court the day he was remanded in custody not when he reported to the police as investigations were still ongoing when he reported himself.
“He further states that he is attached to his wife who has hypertension but he is just a retired soldier with no medical expertise. He should not have gone back to the army to get tangled in this incident but instead should have remained an example to the young army officers.
“His detention situation is no different from other soldiers in custody because there are private consultation rooms in prison where he can meet his lawyers. In his own affidavit he denies shooting Lloyd Mutungamiri but again says he shot him while obeying superior orders, therefore he cannot be trusted by the court. We submit that he should not be granted bail as by operation of law, he is a flight risk due to the seriousness of his charge,” Adv Hoeane submitted to the court.
Justice Lebotse then reserved judgement to 1 October 2019.