THE opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, has accused the police of forcing him to lie about the killing of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng during his recent interrogation.
His allegations have however, been denied by both the government and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).
Mr Mokhosi was arrested on 28 August this year and appeared before the Magistrate Court two days later where he was charged with the murder of PC Khetheng.
He was remanded in custody and released on Monday after High Court judge, Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, granted him bail on Friday.
PC Khetheng, last seen in March 2016 at the traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe, was allegedly killed by his colleagues and his exhumed body was laid to rest a fortnight ago.
In a detailed statement released this week, Mr Mokhosi narrates how LMPS members allegedly tortured and forced him to lie before the Magistrates’ Court about the death of PC Khetheng.
“Following my arrest and detention, I was placed in a dark and stinging cell at police headquarters, on that date (28 August) and starting from 18:00 hours or thereabout I was subjected to the most inhumane, barbaric, savage, traumatising, cruel and heartless treatment by police officers,” Mr Mokhosi alleges.
“I was ordered to undress and while naked, I was chained. My hands were put behind my back and handcuffed and my legs were handcuffed also. The police officer then put a plastic bag containing water over my face, they sat on my back with the result that I was not able to breath. It suffices to say that my breath was blocked and as a result I defecated and urinated, the police then ordered me to clean myself by washing with cold water.”
The statement further alleges that different police officers took turns to torture him until midnight.
Mr Mokhosi further alleges that he was asked questions about PC Khetheng’s death and was thereafter told a “made up” story which he was supposed to present before the magistrate.
“I cried and the officers told me that this was the first stage and more was yet to come if I did not tell the truth regarding the death of a person described by them as Mokalekale Khetheng. I was told that if I did not tell the truth I was going to die the same way the said Khetheng died. I narrated the little that I knew about this death and the police officers told me that I was lying.
“After this ordeal the police told me a story, which I was going to recount before a Magistrate. The police officers told me that I had a choice of telling the Magistrate my story from my personal knowledge or the story that I was given.
“I was told in blunt terms that if I were to choose my own story I should know that I would die the same way the said Khetheng died. I was still dizzy and frantic, and given the previous ordeal during the night I assured the officers that I chose their story. At that stage I was told to repeat what I had just been told, which I duly did,” said the statement.
“Before appearing before the magistrate I was reminded by the police officers that if I changed the story I was told to relate to the Magistrate I should know that this would be the last day I see.
I genuinely believed and interpreted this to mean that I was going to be killed, I was reminded that I should never inform the Magistrate that I had been tortured and subjected to any kind of ill-treatment as that would influence the Magistrate not to take any of my stories and that I was going to be to stages two and three of torturing and that they cannot guarantee that I would survive.”
Mr Mokhosi said in view of the alleged threats, he had no choice but to stick to the story he was told by the police.
“Notwithstanding my cruel and inhumane treatment I am prepared to co-operate with the police and I urge them not to treat other subjects of investigations the way they treated me.
“I still protest my innocence and confirm that I am more than ready to stand trial because I know I did not commit any criminal offence,” Mr Mokhosi’s statement concludes.
LMPS spokesperson, Inspector Mpiti Mopeli, however refuted the allegations, saying the police do not torture suspects.
“Our stance is still the same on this matter and like we have been saying, we don’t torture suspects and he (Mr Mokhosi) wouldn’t be an exception.
“If that was the case he could have still told the Magistrate that he was tortured,” Inspector Mopeli said.
Inspector Mopeli added that there were no alleged death threats to Mr Mokhosi and it was also not true that he was forced to lie.
“If he is saying police officers forced him to lie he could have alerted the magistrate and that would have been dealt with so that is not true and there were no death threats made to him by police officers,” Inspector Mopeli said.
The Press Attaché at the Prime Minister’s office, Thabo Thakalekoala, echoed Inspector Mpiti’s sentiments, saying “the LMPS is controlled and regulated by the Police Act and there is nowhere that it provides for people to be tortured.
“What Ntate Mokhosi is doing is trying to tarnish the police image with these baseless allegations he is making.”
Thakalekoala said Mr Mokhosi could have asked for a medical form and proved that he was tortured.
“If it is true he was tortured why didn’t he ask for a medical form and prove that he was indeed tortured? He could have also informed the magistrate about that and sought protection. So what he is basically doing now is seeking a sympathy and unfortunately he is doing that by tarnishing the LMPS image,” Mr Thakalekoala said.