FOUR soldiers were yesterday released from the Maseru Maximum Security prison where they were detained while awaiting trial before the Court Martial for allegedly plotting to topple the army command.
The four army officers were released from prison and placed under open arrest – a form of military bail.
They are part of the 23 army officers facing mutiny charges before the Court Martial for allegedly planning to topple the army command about three years ago.
The head of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Public Affairs division, Brigadier Ntlele Ntoi, confirmed the developments to the Lesotho Times yesterday.
“The office of the Public Affairs confirms that one officer and three soldiers were released from detention,” Brigadier Ntoi said, adding, “They are Major Makhetha, Sergeant Lekhabunyane, Corporal Manaka and Lance Corporal Makhooane”.
“Their release came after their commanding officer found it fit to be placed under open arrest considering the prevailing conditions presently.”
He said the “conditions that prevailed at the time when they were placed in detention seem to have changed as compared to the presently prevailing conditions.
“At the time there was even an alleged plan to kill other army officers.”
However, he said he would not be specific about the conditions imposed on the released officers because he had not yet seen the document detailing their release conditions.
“I don’t want to speculate but I can only say one of the conditions is that they should abide by all military laws.”
He said they were expected to report to the office of the Military Police at stipulated times.
One of the lawyers representing the army officers facing the mutiny charges, Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai, also confirmed the release of four army officers.
“Yes, four army officers have been released from detention.
“I cannot recall the names of the other two but I have names of two of them whom are our clients. They are Sergeant Lekhabunyane and Corporal Manaka,” he said.
The release of four soldiers comes two weeks after another four detained soldiers, namely, Corporal Letsilane, Corporal Chele, Corporal Liphoto and Private Pama were also released and placed under open arrest.
The Court Martial proceedings have since been postponed to 7 March 2017.
Only seven soldiers remain in detention, namely, Brigadier Motoa, Colonel Stemmere, Colonel Kolisang, Sergeant Semakale, Sergeant Mokhobo, Corporal Mokhoro and Lance Corporal Molefi.
Advocate Rasekoai also confirmed the postponement of the Court Martial proceedings to the Lesotho Times, adding, “One of the reasons to postpone was that some of the lawyers representing the accused were not present and another reason is that we are still awaiting the decision by the Court Martial Appeal Court,” he said.
The soldiers had lodged an appeal before the Court Martial Appeal Court challenging the legality of their trial by the Court Martial.
The decision is still pending before the Court Martial Appeal Court.