LANCE-Corporal Toma Nehemiah Jobo is still languishing in Maseru Maximum Security Prison despite last week’s Court of Appeal ruling ordering his release.
The officer is among 23 Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members facing mutiny charges before a Court Martial and who have been in detention since their arrest between May and June this year.
Lance-Corp Jobo first appeared before the High Court on 21 May 2015 after his wife, ‘Matlhokomelo, filed an application seeking an order directing army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli to facilitate her husband’s appearance before the court. Ms Jobo wanted to find out if her husband was still alive as she claimed he had been kidnapped by the military.
But Justice Semapo Peete refused the prayer after ruling the officer had not been kidnapped.
On 23 July 2015, Lance-Corporal Jobo, Lance-Corporal Aupa Mohasi and Corporal Molato Mohatlane filed a fresh application before the High Court challenging a directive issued by Major-General Lineo Poopa.
The directive sought to further keep the soldiers in detention. On 5 October, Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane ordered the soldiers’ release, but the LDF appealed the judgment.
However, only Lance-Corporal Jobo pursued the case, with the Court of Appeal on Friday ruling in his favour and ordering his immediate release.
Justice Moses Hungwe Chinhengo said: “The order of the court a quo is set aside and the following order is substituted thereof: The 2nd applicant, Toma Nehemiah Jobo, shall be placed under open arrest with immediate effect.
“…failure of the military authorities to comply with Regulation 11(2) in particular, and the unreasonableness of keeping him under close arrest in view of the uncertainty as to when his trial would commence, compel this Court to order he be placed under open arrest.”
Regulation 11(2) provides that “no member shall be held under close arrest for more than 42 days pending trial, unless a superior authority, on legal advice from the Director of Legal Services, directs in writing, that he shall not be released from such custody.”
However, the Lesotho Times yesterday established that Lance-Corporal Jobo was still in Maseru Maximum Security Prison.
According to his lawyer, Khotso Nthontho, he had failed to establish why his client remained in custody. The Lesotho Times could also not immediately get a comment from the LDF regarding the detention.
“He has still not been released and we don’t know what is happening,” Attorney Nthontho said.
“One expected he would be released but he is still in detention despite the court order.
“The order was served on the army authorities, including the office of the commander, on Monday this week, but still nothing has happened.
“I don’t know what to do now considering the situation.
“If it was an ordinary citizen defying the court order, we would simply ask the police to arrest that person, but we are talking about the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force here.”