High Court Acting Judge Justice Keketso Lesihla Moahloli yesterday reserved judgment to next week in a case in which Brigadier Poqa Motoa is fighting to be released from Maseru Maximum Security Prison where he is now under solitary confinement.
Brigadier Motoa is among 18 soldiers in the prison awaiting trial by a Court Martial for allegedly plotting a mutiny last year.
The officer is also one of the said soldiers that Justice Molefi Makara, on 16 October 2015, ordered that they should be placed under “open arrest” but remain in detention following their arrest between May and June 2015.
He and his fellow detainees have since lodged an application before the High Court for an order declaring Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli in contempt for not releasing them.
The application is set to be argued on Thursday next week before Acting Judge Justice John ‘Musi of South Africa after Justice Makara recused himself from the matter citing the collapsed relationship between him and some of the lawyers involved in the case.
During his detention, Brigadier Motoa used to mingle with his co-accused until 29 December last year when he was placed under solitary confinement after allegedly refusing to water spinach in the prison gardens.
His wife, ‘Mampelo Motoa, filed an urgent application before the High Court on 31 December 2015 for an order directing the army to bring her husband before the court as she claimed she was being denied access to him since the solitary confinement.
Brigadier Motoa was brought to court on 31 December 2015 and the case was set for argument yesterday.
Ms Motoa had also asked the court to compel Lt-Gen Kamoli to comply with Justice Makara’s order to release her husband.
But after hearing arguments from both sides, Justice Moahloli yesterday reserved judgment to next week without mentioning a specific date.
“I will give you an extempore judgement on this matter not later than a week from today, but you must understand that it will just be extempore,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ms Motoa’s lawyer, Attorney Nthontho, told the judge that the Brigadier’s continued detention was unlawful because Justice Makara had already ordered his release.
Attorney Nthontho further said his placement in solitary confinement was in breach of LDF regulations.
“The regulations only provide for solitary confinement for a tried prisoner not an untried prisoner,” he said.
The lawyer further said the regulations provided that no untried prisoner should work without his consent.
“The fact that he was given a task to water spinach is not in compliance with the regulations,” Attorney Nthontho said.
“I personally talked to a person in charge of the prison and he told me that the Brigadier was put in solitary confinement because he refused to water spinach, but now it seems the story has changed on the papers.”
Attorney Nthontho also alleged that Brigadier Motoa was denied access to his medication “yet he is suffering from hypertension, diabetes and also has high blood pressure”.
But the lawyer representing the respondents, Advocate Lehooli Motikoe said the Brigadier was put in solitary confinement after failing to obey orders that he should clean his cell and its surroundings.
Advocate Motikoe also said the court should stay proceedings until the application in which the detained soldiers want Lt-Gen Kamoli to be found guilty of contempt of court, is finalized.
The respondents include Lt Gen Kamoli, Lieutenant-Colonel Thato Phaila and the Attorney General.
Advocate Motikoe said it was not correct that the army did not comply with Justice Makara’s order to release the detainees.
The lawyer told the court that they were released and served with fresh warrants to keep them in prison.
“However, this will be extensively argued in the contempt application,” he said.