MASERU — Two ministers are in hot water for attempting to deport controversial businessman Eyob Asemie despite a High Court order to the contrary.
Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo and Foreign Affairs Minister Mohlabi Tsekoa were supposed to have appeared before judge Justice ’Maseforo Mahase yesterday but the Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe sent a message that the ministers had decided to comply with her orders.
Makhethe has not opposed Asemie’s contempt application.
But Asemie’s legal team is proceeding with its contempt of court charge against the two ministers who are accused together with Police Commissioner Kizito Mhlakaza.
A judgment on their contempt of court case is expected to be delivered on October 18.
On the same day Justice Mahase is expected to deliver judgment on an earlier case in which Mhlakaza is accused of allegedly ignoring a court order to release Asemie when he was arrested last month.
The ministers are accused together with an officer in the department of immigration Malefane Mojakhomo as well as two police detectives Mahatela Loke and Mahlomola Mothae.
Attorney General Makhethe is also cited in the same contempt of court case.
Justice Mahase had on August 13 and September 7 ordered that Asemie, a Mosotho man of Ethiopian origin, should not be deported to Ethiopia where he allegedly escaped torture by the state because he was involved in opposition politics.
The judge had also ruled that Asemie is a naturalised Lesotho citizen after the Home Affairs Principal Secretary Retšelisitsoe Khetsi and Commissioner of Refugees Mohlolo Lerotholi challenged his citizenship.
On September 7 the judge also ordered Molapo to swear-in Asemie as a citizen within two weeks.
The 14-day period ends tomorrow at 2:30 pm.
Molapo allegedly issued a deportation order against Asemie immediately after Justice Mahase ordered him to hold a swearing-in ceremony for him.
Mojakhomo, Loke and Mothae were instructed by Mhlakaza and Molapo to secure visas from the Ethiopian Embassy in Pretoria so that they could accompany Asemie back to Ethiopia.
The three left Lesotho for the Ethiopian Embassy in Pretoria on September 11, according to court papers.
“My lawyer, Advocate (Tekane) Maqakachane, then wrote an e-mail to the Ethiopian Embassy in Pretoria to alert the embassy of the secret, illegal and surreptitious attempt to deport me,” Asemie told Justice Mahase in his affidavit.
By the time Maqakachane’s letter reached Pretoria the three men had already been issued with visas, after a letter from Foreign Affairs Minister Tsekoa’s office introduced them and said they were on a business trip and were “accompanying one Ethiopian gentleman”.
The three men booked a flight from Moshoeshoe I International Airport that was scheduled to take off at 11:15am last Monday to OR Tambo where they would be taking an evening flight to Ethiopia on the same day.
The Lesotho Times understands the trip failed to materialise after Maqakachane’s intervention.
“My lawyer then wrote to the Right Honourable the Prime Minister of Lesotho and in his letter dated 12th September 2012 he solicited the intervention of the Prime Minister in this matter as my surreptitious deportation would not only be inconsistent with the declaration of the High Court of the 7th September that I am a naturalised citizen of this Great Kingdom of Lesotho, but would also amount to serious violation of the international law principles and standards,” reads Asemie’s affidavit.
Asemie told Justice Mahase that the police’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) was planning to kidnap and hand him over to the men who would secretly deport him to Ethiopia.
“I have all the reasons to believe that like some instances before, members of the SOU are bent to secretly capture me and effect the official abduction against me,” he said.
He told Justice Mahase that the two ministers, Mhlakaza and the three officers were in conempt of court because Molapo issued the deportation order, Tsekoa facilitated the visas and Mhlakaza instructed the three officers to effect the deportation.
The police officers are in contempt of court because they sought to execute the deportation order.
Asemie has asked the judge to order the Lesotho Defence Force commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli or the High Court station commander, Senior Superintendent Tšeliso Tšita, to arrest the two ministers, Mhlakaza and the three officers if they refuse to comply with the High Court order.