MASERU — Two men who were convicted of rape but are still awaiting sentence in the High Court are now seeking a retrial, claiming they only pleaded guilty following severe torture by the police.
On June 15 last year, the Mafeteng Magistrate’s Court convicted Sechaba Serutla, 22, and Thinyane Molise, 22, of raping a 32-year-old woman on June 30 2005.
The accused were then referred to the High Court for sentencing.
They face up to 15 years jail term, according to the Sexual Offences Act, Section 3 (1) of 2003.
The duo appeared before Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase on Friday.
But in a new twist, the accused — through their lawyer Advocate Zwelakhe Mda — told the court they only confessed to the crime after being allegedly tortured and threatened by the police.
“The accused were charged under Section 3 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act and pleaded guilty involuntarily,” said Mda.
“The magistrate referred the matter to the High Court for sentencing.
“On interviewing the accused, I discovered there were third-degree methods used by the police against my clients.
He told the court the accused had issued affidavits detailing what happened when they were arrested and taken into police custody on June 12 2009.
“Serutla wrote an affidavit in which he said: ‘I was shocked and surprised when I was arrested by the police with my co-accused Molise on a sexual offence and, subsequent to our charge, we were taken to Mafeteng Police Station’,” Mda told the court.
According to Mda, his clients were allegedly tortured by troopers only named as Mokone and Mosuoe.
“They were suffocated several times and forced to confess,” he said.
“The accused said they never raped their accuser.
“My clients said they pleaded guilty because they were tortured and threatened that if they didn’t plead guilty, they were going to be beaten up again.”
Mda said because the confession had allegedly been coerced, his clients were now seeking a retrial.
“There are circumstances which have been clearly spelt out — the accused were forced into confessing to the crime,” he said.
“The accused ought not to have been convicted.
“We plead to the court for a retrial.
“If the magistrate had not convicted the accused, the High Court would be at liberty to reach any conclusion.”
Mda, though, said there was no evidence or records to show the accused were tortured.
“They were put in remand prison without filling any medical forms,” he said.
“We are in a situation whereby the constitution protects the accused by having a fair trial.
“These are people who appeared in the magistrate’s court without representation.”
However, crown counsel Phakiso Sealiete said the court should take note of the defendants’ earlier plea in the magistrate’s court.
“They were in the court but did not tell the magistrate that they were tortured,” Sealiete told the court.
“Prison officers do not admit injured inmates.
“These are mere allegations that the accused were assaulted.
“I pray that you exercise your powers and sentence the accused, as they had already pleaded guilty.”
Trial continues on March 19.