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Soldier’s wife fights for his release

by Sunday Express
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army-boots. . . argues officer’s health deteriorating in detention

’Marafaele Mohloboli

HIGH Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monapathi will preside over a case in which the wife of Captain Seabata Chaka of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) is fighting for his release from the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.

The trial, set for tomorrow, is the result of ’Matšepang Chaka’s urgent application filed before the court on Friday in which she was seeking an order compelling LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli and the Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi to place him under open arrest. Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe is the third respondent in the case.

Captain Chaka is among the 23 LDF members who were arrested between May and June 2015 for allegedly plotting to violently remove the LDF command. Seven of the soldiers have since been released from Maseru Maximum Security Prison and placed under open arrest, which is a form of bail in the military. The other 16, including Captain Chaka, remain in detention.

The LDF says the alleged plot was masterminded by former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao, who was shot dead in Mokema on 25 June 2015 by soldiers who had come to arrest him for the suspected rebellion.

Ms Chaka made the application after her husband’s lawyers, Legal Link Chambers, on 13 September this year wrote a letter to Lt-Gen Kamoli requesting the officer’s release so he can be placed under open arrest.

The lawyers had argued their client suffered from “severe osteoa theritis and anchiosed hip” which they said had been exacerbated by the detention.

However, Lt-Gen Kamoli had responded to the missive with a “show cause” letter to Captain Chaka, saying he had a feeling part of the correspondence referred to him as an enemy, while another seemed to “belittle” the army commander.

On 30 September 2016, Captain Chaka lodged an urgent application before the High Court seeking to block his looming dismissal by Lt-Gen Kamoli.

However, on 7 October 2016, Lt-Gen Kamoli wrote another letter to Captain Chaka revoking the “show cause” letter. The parties have been holding negotiations this past week in a bid to settle the matter out of court.

But Ms Chaka on Friday made the urgent application in which she argues her husband’s health had “deteriorated badly” due to his continued detention. However, Justice Monapathi Justice Mtshiya ruled that the case was not urgent and set the date of hearing to Monday.

In an affidavit to motivate his release, Ms Chaka states at the time of her husband’s arrest he was already limping since 2012 “as a result of the nature of his work”.

“My husband’s ill health deteriorated further while in detention and this was evidenced by the reports of medical doctors until he had to be operated on the 14th October 2016,” states Ms Chaka.

She says following his operation at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital, Captain Chaka was taken back to Maseru Maximum Security Prison on 19 October this year “despite his obvious pain and ill-health”.

“I must state that I have been supporting my husband through this ordeal by visiting him in hospital and taking instructions from the doctors.

“I must state further that as at present, my husband has difficulty in sleeping. In prison he is sleeping on the flat mattresses, while the doctor has recommended that he be afforded a bed in order to try and alleviate his condition.”

Ms Chaka adds: “Furthermore my husband has difficulty in taking care of himself, in that due to the operation he can’t bathe himself. The doctor has recommended a special type of a toilet which is not available in prison.”

She says Captain Chaka’s doctor also recommended a special type of chair and medical attention not available in prison.

“It is therefore obvious that my husband stands to suffer irreparable harm, more so because he cannot take good care of his hygienic needs, and since there are no specialized sleeping and other facilities, it is very likely that his condition may deteriorate further,” argues Ms Chaka.

“Furthermore, the medical operation on my husband on 14 October 2016 gives special circumstances which warrant his immediate release under open arrest. It has been evident that his ill health has been deteriorating since his arrest and there was no indication by the first respondent (Lt-Gen Kamoli) and/or his agents to try and assist my husband.”

She says the doctor’s recommendation for a bed was made on 25 August this year and communicated to the LDF and officers responsible for the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.

“. . . to date the first respondent and/or his officers have never acceded to this recommendation.

“This, therefore creates a reasonable apprehension that it is unlikely that respondents will actually accede to the doctor’s recommendations.”

Ms Chaka further argues her husband’s continued detention amounted to miscarriage of justice and basic human rights.

“I am also advised that refusal by the respondents to release my husband under open arrest on the account of ill health is repugnant of justice and irreconcilable with the fundamental human rights as envisaged in the constitution especially the right fair treatment and/or the right not to be tortured,” she says.

“I therefore maintain that the decision of first respondent to detain my husband despite clear and unequivocal medical reports is arbitrary and so grossly unreasonable as to be demonstrative of the fact that as an institution, it has failed to apply its mind in refusing to put my husband under open arrest and therefore this Honourable Court has power to put such decision aside.”

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