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Shaun Abrahams returns for Lesotho murder trials

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE long-awaited trials of former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and other serving and former members of the security agencies will finally get underway before the end of next month.

This was revealed by High Court judge Justice Semapo Peete when Lieutenant General Kamoli and eight soldiers appeared before him on Thursday in connection with the murder of former army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao in 2015.

Justice Peete had to halt the court proceedings to confer with the Acting Registrar of the High Court, Pontšo Phafoli. The judge demanded to know from Ms Phafoli why this and other murder trials could not begin and they had to be postponed on numerous occasions ever since Lt-Gen Kamoli and other soldiers were arrested in 2017.

Ms Phafoli came into the court accompanied by the Assistant Registrar of the High Court, Stanford Sharite, and proceeded to whisper into Justice Peete’s ears.

Thereafter, the judge told the court that the duo had assured him that the trial of Lt-Gen Kamoli and others involving politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies will get underway before the end of June.

“Ms Phafoli and Mr Sharite have just informed me that come what may, this case must be heard before the end of June,” Justice Peete said.

“I have also been made aware that (Shaun) Abrahams, who will be the prosecuting counsel in the matter, will be available in the country from 24 June therefore such an opportunity should be seized. The matter is postponed to 24 June for the pre-trial conference, with the likelihood that the trial will continue thereafter.”

Justice Peete had called in the two court officials at the prompting of one of the defendants’ lawyer’, Advocate Khotso Letuka, who had raised concerns about the non-arrival of the foreign judges who have been earmarked to hear this and other high profile cases.

“We need the registrar to come and explain where the foreign judges are because this is not only causing inconvenience to the accused persons who remain in custody but their counsels as well who have to come to court every two weeks just for the matter to be postponed,” Adv Letuka had said.

Justice and Correctional Services minister Mokhele Moletsane has previously told this publication that the decision to engage foreign judges was taken to protect local judges from possible victimisation and backlash from trying the “politically sensitive cases”.

Mr Moletsane said while the local judges were competent enough to try the cases, the government and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) still felt it necessary to engage foreign judges because the cases in question were politically sensitive. He further said that the verdicts of the foreign judges were less likely to be viewed as biased.

“It has never been about the incompetency of local judges as the government believes they are capable enough to preside over the cases.

“However, the government and Southern African Development Community agreed that due to the nature of the cases which are said to be politically sensitive, it would be best to source foreign judges because local judges are at risk of being victimised for the verdicts they would give for the cases,” Mr Moletsane said.

In this particular case, Lt-Gen Kamoli is accused of Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder along with Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.

Former National Security Services (NSS) director and head of Military Intelligence, Tumo Lekhooa, was also roped in among the accused, but he has not attended any court session on account of the fact that he fled the country last year.

The 10 are accused of acting in the “common intention and/ or purpose to murder” Lt-Gen Mahao on 25 June 2015 in Mokema.

Furthermore, the accused are charged with the attempted murder of Lt-Gen’s nephews, Mahao Mahao and Mabilikoe Leuta, by shooting inside a vehicle in which they were passengers.

They are also charged with damaging Lt-Gen Mahao’s vehicle during the same operation by firing at it with an automatic rifle.

Lt-Gen Kamoli is further charged with the theft of Lt-Gen Mahao’s 9mm pistol and Samsung Galaxy mobile phone.

Lt-Gen Kamoli has been in remand prison since he was arrested and detained in October 2017.

He also faces a murder charge stemming from the 30 August 2014 killing of Police Sub-Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko.

Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was shot and killed by soldiers during the attempted coup of 30 August 2014 at the Police Headquarters in Maseru. The soldiers who allegedly acted on the instructions of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Kamoli, also raided several other police stations in Maseru and seized an assortment of weapons.

Lt-Gen Kamoli also faces attempted murder charges in connection with the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.

In this case, Lt-Gen Kamoli is charged alongside Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Sergeant Heqoa Malefane and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko.

The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) has said that the continued detention of Lt-Gen Kamoli and other soldiers is a gross violation of human rights as they are indirectly serving sentences without being convicted by the courts.


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