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Farmer sues police for wrongful arrest

Nat Molomo

 MASERU — A livestock farmer from Mants’onyane in Thaba-Tseka district is suing the police for M300 000 for assault, torture and unlawful arrest.

Motsamai Maseru, 27, claims the police inserted a gun into his behind and assaulted him while in detention at the Marakabei police station in 2008.

Maseru wants the commissioner of police to pay him M50 000 for unlawful arrest and detention, M75 000 for assault, M25 000 for “partial permanent” disability, M25 000 for loss of amenities of life and M50 000 for present and future medical expenses.

He claims that the Marakabei police unlawfully arrested and detained him on suspicion that he was in illegal possession of a firearm.

The police however did not find any gun in his possession.

He told the court the he was also assaulted on the face, head, and scrotum and all over the body.

Maseru was never charged.

He says after he was released from detention he went to St James Hospital where he was treated and discharged on the same day.

The defendants, the commissioner of police and attorney-general, have accepted liability.

The defendants are however disputing the quantum of damages saying that it is too high.

In his submissions, counsel for defendants Advocate M Sekati argued that the court should take into account the prevailing economic meltdown when awarding the damages.

 “To me it sounds as if the court will be punishing police officers while the nature of the case is to compensate,” Sekati said, adding that “while the defendants admit liability the court should not accept the huge sums claimed by the plaintiff.”

On the other hand, counsel for plaintiff Molise Molise said the police should be made to pay for their conduct.

“The conduct of police officers constituted a violation of human rights of the plaintiff enshrined in section six of the Constitution of Lesotho, which provides in no uncertain terms that no person shall be arbitrarily arrested,” Molise said.

“It is our humble submission that this honourable court is the only way in which persons who have been tortured can be compensated, and can send a strong message to the police that every time when they arrest a person, he should not be treated inhumanely.”

The presiding judge, Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane said she was in no way enhancing the case of the plaintiff but she was doing her duty as judge.

“To me courts have to do their duty,” Justice Chaka-Makhooane said.

“I would imagine that people would discourage state apparatus or state agents from doing some acts which would incur the state into expenses, especially when you have accepted liability,” the judge said.

“Honestly we have to be honest to the plaintiffs who come to this court,” the judge said, adding that she did “not mean that courts should not offer higher damages.”

The court agreed that the prevailing economic climate should be taken into account.

“I think we should be fair to admit that the state agents should learn that [this] is tax-payers money,” Justice Chaka-Makhooane said.

The judgment was reserved until November 9.

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