MASERU — The state on Friday poked holes into Eyob Asemie’s claims that he is a Lesotho citizen.
Asemie, an Ethiopian businessman who holds a Lesotho passport and claims to have come here as a refugee, had brought an application seeking a High Court order to compel the government to declare him a Lesotho citizen.
He claims that the government has blocked his naturalisation on malicious grounds.
Asemie, who has had run-ins with the police over the past two weeks, claims that he has a naturalisation certificate issued by the home affairs ministry but the government does not want him to be sworn-in as a Lesotho citizen.
He blames his troubles on Home Affairs principal secretary, Retšelisitsoe Khetsi, whom he says blocked the registration of his naturalisation certificate.
But the state argues that the High Court cannot issue an order for Asemie to be declared a Lesotho citizen because doing so “would amount to usurpation of the (home affairs) Minister’s prerogative”.
The state is also disputing Asemie’s claims that he came to Lesotho as a refugee in 2003 after he fled persecution in Ethiopia.
It says Asemie has not been sworn-in as a Lesotho citizen because it was discovered that he did not come to Lesotho as a refugee but a businessman.
“Among others, it was discovered that applicant did not come here running away from the persecution but that he came into the country in August 2005 on business,” the state says in its answering affidavit.
To prove this assertion the state points to the application form Asemie submitted when he was seeking refugee status in Lesotho.
In that form, the state says, Asemie claims that in 2005 he was imprisoned in Ethiopia for two days.
To that same application Asemie also attached an Identity Document issued in 2004 by the Addis Ababa University College of Commerce.
“The question is, if applicant came to Lesotho in 2003, how was it possible for him to go to prison in Ethiopia in 2005 and how does he come along with an ID which (was) issued in 2004, a year after his arrival in Lesotho?”
It says the certificate of naturalisation Asemie attached to his court papers is not authentic because it does not reflect his name. “Certificate of naturalisation has not (been) issued in respect of the applicant and therefore he is not a citizen of Lesotho.”
The state also alleges that Asemie obtained his refugee status through “deceit”.
“In the same token he obtained the passport through deceit. Applicant put his date of arrival back to 2003 because he was in a hurry to meet a five-year period, which would in turn entitle him to obtain naturalised citizenship.”
Asemie’s lawyer, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, is arguing that the documents his clients have filed clearly show that he followed correct procedure when he applied for citizenship.
He says his client’s application for citizenship was approved by the minister of home affairs and the certificate of naturalisation was issued on June 6, 2010.
“It is presumed that when the minister granted applicant refugee status, when the minister granted applicant Lesotho citizenship and when applicant was granted Lesotho passport, these were done regularly,” Maqakachane says.
“We are not asking this court to grant the applicant a naturalisation certificate, we are saying there is a certificate which was granted,” submitted.
“We are only asking this court to declare him a citizen,” he said.
Asemie owns a bar near Sefika Complex and a coffee shop near Lancers Inn.
The police suspect he might have been involved in a human trafficking syndicate. Asemie had denied links to the alleged crime.
Two weeks ago the police searched his house without a warrant before detaining him without a charge.
His lawyer then got a High Court order to have him released but Police Commissioner Kizito Mhlakaza allegedly ignored it.
The same court then ordered that the commissioner be arrested for contempt of court.
But by that time Asemie had already allegedly escaped from police custody.
The High Court also ordered that the police must charge him within seven days, failure of which they would never charge him again.
The army was instructed to give the businessman security and the police were barred from getting within 100 metres of his Thetsane home.
During the hearing on Thursday the state argued that the order for the commissioner’s arrest was of no effect because by the time it was issued Asemie had already escaped from police custody.