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Ex-trooper’s torture claim ‘out of proportion’

by Sunday Express
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Sello Morake

MASERU — A defence lawyer says the money being claimed as compensation by ex-trooper Bokang Letele, who is suing Police Commissioner ’Malejaka Letooane for alleged torture,  is “way out of proportion and excessive”.
Letele wants M3.08 million, claiming he was tortured after being arrested at Ha-Thetsane by the police’s Special Operations Unit on November 30 2001 in connection with a robbery that had occurred in Butha-Buthe.
But according to defence lawyer Advocate Mosito Mapetla, Letele was never beaten up by the defendants and the amount of money he was demanding was excessive.
“He was never assaulted by the defendants,” Mapetla told the High Court on Thursday.
“What the plaintiff has claimed is, by far, out of proportion.
“Lesotho courts have pronounced themselves on inflated costs, even if we would settle out of court.
“In fact, in the history of this court, no one has ever been awarded a claim of a million maloti.”
Letele is claiming M275 000 for unlawful arrest, M2.5 million for pain and suffering, M30 000 for future medical expenses and M275 000 for contumelia (emotional damage and shock).
A claim for medical expenses has been withdrawn for lack of evidence.
But Mapetla said the money being demanded was excessive.
“It buttresses the defence’s case because there was no assault,” he said.
“My witnesses (the police officers who arrested Letele) are not happy that the cliff where the plaintiff claims he was suspended over Mphorosane Bridge has not been seen by the court.
“Inspection in-loco has not been held — all this has to be considered.”
However, the applicant’s lawyer, Thulo Mahlakeng, disagreed with the defence.
“The witnesses are not happy — he is taking instruction from the wrong people,” he said.
“Witnesses are witnesses for the court. Witnesses have nothing to do with this case.”
Mahlakeng said Letele was made to undress and stayed naked for three nights among his juniors who “sat on his waist and was made to swim in his faeces”.
He said Letele is still attending medical check-ups because of a broken arm and damaged kidneys.
“It may cause him problems because he is in his 40s,” Mahlakeng said.
“We do not pursue medical expenses because we have been careless and we misplaced our receipts,’’ he said.
Mahlakeng said this, however, did not mean no medical expenses had been incurred.
“We submit that our claim is not excessive,” he said.
“What is a million rand in this depreciating economy?
“My learned friend criticises that we are excessive but does not give us an alternative.
“The police should stop this brutality.
“The plaintiff has made a case on unlawful arrest — 48 hours is a human rights violation as enshrined in the constitution.”
Mahlakeng said Letele was arrested on November 30 and released on December 4 2001 on M150 bail.
“We pray the court grants damages with costs. This case has taken so long,” he said.
The case is before Justice Ts´eliso Monaphathi.
Trial continues.

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