International observers to attend soldiers’ trial

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Billy Ntaote

The trial of 23 Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members accused of plotting to overthrow their command would be attended by international observers when it resumes next week.

The trial was adjourned on 9 October 2015 and reconvenes on 1 December.

Brigadier Poqa Motoa, Brigadier Thoriso Mareka, Colonel Stemere, Colonel Kolisang, Major Makhetha, Captain Chaka, Second-Lieutenant Mohasi, Sergeant Mokhobo, Sergeant Semakale, Sergeant Lekhabunyane, Corporal Mokhoro, Corporal Letsilane, Corporal Lipoto, Corporal Manaka, Corporal Mohatlane, Corporal Chele, Corporal Motseko, Lance-Corporal Jobo, Lance Corporal Molefi, Lance-Corporal Makhooane, Private Pama, Private Bolofo and Private Ralitlemo were arrested and detained between May and June this year and have since been charged with mutiny.

The soldiers’ repeated attempts to be released from Maseru Maximum Security Prison have been unsuccessful, much to the frustration of their lawyers and families.

One of the detained soldiers’ lawyers, Advocate Tumisang Mosotho, yesterday told the Lesotho Times that when the trial resumes next week, officials from the Johannesburg-based Southern African Litigation Centre, Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Institute of Southern Africa, would be among several international observers in attendance.

Advocate Mosotho also revealed the defence team would be filing a host of grievances against the military when the trial reconvenes.

“We are concerned with the state of mind of these soldiers due to their solitary confinement. The question is whether our clients are in the right state of mind to properly instruct their lawyers,” Advocate Mosotho said.

“Another major concern is we are only allowed 20 minutes to consult with these soldiers. To make matters worse, our clients are not afforded the necessary privacy to consult with us. When we meet, the door is always open so the soldiers cannot speak freely with our legal team.

“It is worrying that people who could be handed death sentences are denied ample time to consult with their lawyers.”

Advocate Mosotho further said the soldiers can only be visited for 15 minutes a day by their families.

“We are not the only ones who are being denied enough visitation hours; even their family members can only see them for 15 minutes a day since the solitary confinement started (last month). It used to be five minutes but when the solitary imprisonment started, the time was increased to 15 minutes.”

Advocate Mosotho said these restrictions would be among the complaints the lawyers would be raising in the Court Martial.

Asked about an Amnesty International online campaign titled ‘23 risk unfair trial and the death penalty’, Advocate Mosotho said he was aware of it.

“The campaign shows that the world is watching what’s happening in this country. Local civic organisations were labelled supporters of the opposition when they expressed concern over the soldiers’ torture and also sought their release.

“However, it is now evident that these civic groups had genuine concerns and now the world has joined them in protesting against the abuses,” said Advocate Mosotho.

 

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