THE High Court will next Tuesday hear a bail application by murder-accused former army commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, who has been languishing in custody at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison since last month.
Lt-Gen Kamoli, was arraigned in the Magistrate’s Court on 16 October 2017, charged with one count of murder and 14 counts of attempted murder.
The murder charge is for the fatal shooting of police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko during the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
In the murder charge, the former LDF chief was joined to three army officers who were charged last month and are also detained at the prison.
The 14 attempted murder charges stem from the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesiah Thabane, ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.
The former army commander had applied for bail on 20 October this year and on 23 October, the prosecution subsequently filed its intention to oppose his application.
The prosecution which is led by renowned Advocate Haae Phoofolo, who has been mandated to prosecute the case on behalf of the crown, has already filed papers strongly opposing the bail application.
The prosecution claims that the former army chief still retains strong support and influence in the military and could team up with his co-accused soldiers with devastating consequences for the country’s security and stability.
The opposition of the bail application is likely to result in lengthy court proceedings as witnesses would be called in to testify in motivation of both prosecution’s case and that of Lt Gen Kamoli.
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High Court judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa, on Monday announced that the application proceedings would start on Tuesday next week.
In his court papers Lt-Gen Kamoli vehemently denies his involvement in the killing of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko who was killed by soldiers at Police headquarters on 30 August, 2014 during the ‘attempted coup’ at the time when Lt-Gen was the army commander.
He also denies involvement in the bombing incidents that occurred at Mr Tšooana and Ms Thabane’s houses in January 2014.
He further wants Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane and Mr Tšooana, among others, to testify on his behalf that he was not involved in the crimes and that he would not abscond if granted bail.
However, in a strongly worded rebuttal, the prosecution which is led by Advocate Phoofolo, states in its answering affidavit that if released on bail, Lt-Gen Kamoli could gang up with fellow co-accused who are all trained military personnel with potentially disastrous consequences for the peace, security and stability of the country.
“Your petitioner (Lt-Gen Kamoli) still enjoys a very strong support base and influence on other members of the military and his release on bail is a huge risk which will jeopardise law and order or state security,” the prosecution states in its answering affidavit.
“Members of the military who committed various crimes and who, your petitioner refused to release to the police, are being held accountable for those crimes.
“If released, they might join forces and destabilise the country. These are trained personnel. We have walked this road before and it is not ideal to take a trip down memory lane or relieve the past. These are testing times for the country which is at cross-roads where security reforms amongst others should be the business of the moment.”
The prosecution also states that contrary to Lt-Gen Kamoli’s protestations of innocence he “did actually plan and conspire to kill the deceased Mokheseng Ramahloko and or was acting in common purpose with the co-accused persons in the commission of the alleged offence”.
“Evidence will show that he (Lt-Gen Kamoli) gave the orders for the operation to be carried out.”
In response to Lt-Gen Kamoli’s submission that he did not detonate bombs at “anybody’s residence,” the prosecution avers that there is evidence that he ordered some of his subordinates to “attack and/or threaten” Liabiloe Ramoholi (who is now First Lady (Maesiah Thabane) and Mr Tšooana.
The prosecution further states that contrary to Lt-Gen Kamoli’s submission that he had been very co-operative with the police and that he will stand trial to finality, the former army commander was either a “flight risk” who would use his hefty army retirement payout of more than M4.1 million to flee the country and start a new life elsewhere outside the country or he could use his influence within the military to interfere with witnesses to the case.
The prosecution states that Lt-Gen Kamoli only handed himself over to the police because he was merely told to report himself and had not been told about the charges to be levelled against him, “the seriousness thereof and the severity of sentence they are likely to attract”.
“Now that he does (know the charges), these factors are likely to act as incentives for him to abscond.
“It could be the case that your petitioner did not conduct himself in a way that threatens the interests of justice since his retirement from the LDF. It is apposite to mention that this was when the wheels of justice seemed stationary; now that is visibly in motion with his arrest and remand it is not guaranteed that the position will be similar.”
“Your petitioner shall either not stand his trial or he shall interfere with Crown witnesses and God knows in what way he shall destabilise the country and thus the justice system, the Crown and the police will be prejudiced. The investigations in this case are nearing completion and very soon the matter shall be ripe for hearing.”
The state further asserts that Lt-Gen Kamoli was likely to interfere with Crown witnesses, given that he is a former commander of the military who knows very well the people who might be state witnesses “as he is quite clear as to who he planned the crimes with and who he gave orders to in order to execute the plans”.
The prosecution also seeks to hoist Lt-Gen Kamoli by his own petard by attaching and quoting from a letter he wrote to the lawyers of then detained army captain, Seabata Chaka dismissing a request for his release from detention so that he could receive medical attention at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
Captain Chaka had been advised by his doctor to go for further assessment and management of his ailment which needs an orthopedic surgeon.
However, Lt-Gen Kamoli responded to the letter saying: “As you should be aware, whenever detainees awaiting trial are in need of medical attention that is facilitated as a routine administrative matter. Be that as it may, advise your client to secure more blankets to address the issue of need to keep him warm. He may even buy a freezer-suit so as to avoid the cold.”
“We advise that he heeds his own advice,” the prosecution states in response to Lt-Gen Kamoli’s application to be released to enable him to seek medical attention.
The prosecution also secured a supporting affidavit from Mr Tšooana to bolster its case.