MASERU – Murder accused former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli says he is a good candidate for bail and argues his detention without trial has been inordinately long.
Kamoli, who has been in remand prison for over 18 months, told the High Court he is not a flight risk, as has co-operated with the authorities when required to do so.
Court papers presented to court this week quote Kamoli contending that had he been a flight risk, he would not have presented himself to the police and co-operated with investigators.
Also, he has not conducted himself in any way that threatens the interests of justice since his retirement from the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in 2016.
This bid for liberation is Kamoli’s second attempt to be bailed out after his first attempt was dismissed by Justice Teboho Moiloa in November 2017.
The bail hearing was scheduled for Monday this week but did proceed because the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) wanted more time to prepare his replying papers. The DPP has only filed an intention to oppose.
Justice Molefi Makara directed that opposing papers be filed by March 27 and that the replying affidavits should have been by 2 April.
The case was postponed to 8 April.
Kamoli argues that despite being informed in advance that he was likely to face serious criminal charges, he had remained in the country and presented himself to the police when telephonically requested to do so.
He was called to report at Police Headquarters on Monday 9 October 2017 but reported on Wednesday with his lawyer.
He was detained at Police Headquarters for 48 hours in line with the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act 198 before being taken to court for a further detention application.
On 16 October 2017 he, along with a number of other former soldiers, was charged with the murder of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko. Besides the murder charge, Kamoli faces 14 counts of attempted murder.
Kamoli’s charges relate to the bombing of the homes of former Commissioner of Police, Khothatso Tšooana, the then girlfriend and now wife of the Prime Minister Thabane, Liabiloe Ramoholi and her neighbour in Moshoeshoe II.
He argues that he did not kill Sub-Inspector Ramahloko and that he did not detonate bombs at anybody’s residence.
He said his efforts to probe the bombings were frustrated by then Commissioner of Police, Tšooana who obstructed a joint police, National Security Service (NSS) and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) investigation as ordered by then Prime Minister, Thabane.
He says Tšooana at the time refused to attend meetings convened by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Mothejoa Metsing, attended by himself and the Director General of the NSS.
Tšooana later informed him the police were investigating the case with the assistance of external forensic investigators.
“The interests of justice will not be defeated if your petitioner were to be released on bail for the reason that he will abscond,” he said.
He has always remained in Lesotho save for the few occasions when he had visited Ladybrand and Bloemfontein in South Africa adding that he spent almost all of his time either at his home in Maseru or his rural home in Thaba-Tseka.
He says he had the opportunity of distance and time to flee but he had conducted himself legally and lawfully as he is prepared to stand trial and clear his name from the alleged charges and the controversy that has been created around his name and image due to the polarised state of politics in Lesotho.
“Your Petitioner has a heavy family responsibility on his shoulders as he is not only a breadwinner in his family but takes care of even members of the extended family who depend on him for survival. There are also other children who are not earning a living on their own but depend on your petitioner’s shoulders and some of them are minors. Your petitioner supports all of them from his pension which he got prior to retirement. The facts alluded to amount to exceptional circumstances warranting his release on bail.”
On top of that, Kamoli says he is prepared to face trial and asked the court to release him to earn a living and raise funds to prepare for his defence.
“Your petitioner has been legally advised and verily believes the same to be true that the cases against him are not ready to be heard, this issue leads to prospects of long-term incarceration prior to trial if the matter is not heard urgently.”
He said the prison conditions where he is awaiting trial are not conducive to his health which can deteriorate quickly in a cold environment and that he is prone to recurring serious influenza which requires constant and prompt medical attention.
“This factor adds additional to existing exceptional circumstances, your petitioner wishes to live to see his trial and clear his name.
“Your petitioner submits, and legally so advised, that the trial is not likely to start anytime soon. It is not even anticipated that the trial shall have started and been concluded in 2019 due to the fact that there is a shortage of judges in the High Court, there is a backlog of cases of a similar nature, DDP’s office is overwhelmed with such cases, the date of the trial is not yet set.
“The DPP does not have an idea as to when the trial date shall be after at least the year 2019, the government has not yet started to make preparations for employment of additional judges so that the murder trials in the High Court can be dealt with within the reasonable time provided for under Section 12 of the Constitution. This prospect again of lengthy prison stay without a case being commenced constitutes additional exceptional circumstances on which he should be released on bail.
“Your petitioner avers that when facts herein are taken in their totality, there exists exceptional circumstances warranting for his release on bail as he has no means to survive outside of Lesotho where he does not have family relations or assets.”
He said the fact that he has a small-scale farming venture near his home at Ha Leqele in Maseru establishes his strong roots in Lesotho and dissuades him from absconding but rather persuades him to stand trial which he intends to.
He said the fact that he is not a flight risk cannot even be rebutted by investigators in his case adding that even in the alleged charges against him, he is not alleged to be the actual perpetrator of any offence.
He also narrates in the papers that he was this year served with the charge to appear before the High Court charged with various counts of murder and of the late Maaparankoe Mahao.
However, Kamoli says he was not involved in any matter that had to do with the demise of Mahao.