Metsing and Mochoboroane face new hurdle
MASERU – Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa, a Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) non-commissioned officer in prison facing a murder charge has asked for his trial to be separated from that of politicians Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane.
Metsing and Mochoboroane’s attempts to avoid treason charges preferred against them fell through last week when Justice Onkemetse Tshosa in the High of Lesotho endorsed an indictment for them to be included as accused persons in the high profile case.
Also facing charges in the same case is former LDF commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kennedy Kamoli who left the military in is a SADC forced retirement.
Motsieloa has been in detention after he was arrested in 2017 and charged with the murder of Lesotho Mounted Police Service’s Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko. He petitioned the High Court on Tuesday this week for an order that his trial be separated from that of the leaders of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and the Movement of Economic Change respectively.
He says the two politicians’ inclusion and additional charge of treason, as contained in the new indictment, means he will now endure more time in jail against international, regional and national standards of conducting trials. This, he says, will be brought by the fact that the duo will have to be accorded their pre-trial rights before the trial.
Motsieloa says he was not given a hearing to object to the amendment and inclusion of the new charges as he had not yet received “counsel on ramifications of the introduced charges.” He says he is approaching four years since he was indicted and the trial dates for his case were ignored in order to usher in Metsing and Mochoboroane.
According to him, his murder trial could not continue on the set dates because of the prosecution’s desire to join Metsing and Mochoboroane and there is still no possibility of their trial going ahead in the current session of the court.
This, he adds, is against the requirement that once committed to the High Court, the trial be held at the first session. He also contends that 31 days have elapsed between the date of his commitment to the High Court and holding of the session without his case being set for hearing. For that, he says he is entitled to be released.
“I aver that my release on account of failure to prosecute a case at first session is statutory compelled notwithstanding that I was denied bail before as I was the case with me. Alternatively, I aver that 60 days have since lapsed without my case being set for hearing, this happened while I am in custody therefore I am entitled to be released under dictates of Section 4 of the Speedy Courts Trials Act, 2002.”
The section speaks about remands and states that “a person shall not be remanded into custody for a period exceeding 60 days unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary and such reasons shall be recorded in writing.”
The continued detention without trial, Motsieloa says, is not only prejudicial but also violates his constitutional right to trial within a reasonable time as defined under section of 141 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CP&E) together with the Speedy Courts Trials Act, 2002
Section 141 of the CP&E speaks of the procedure before commencement of a trial and states that every person committed for trial or sentence whom the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has decided to prosecute before the High Court shall be brought to trial at the first session of the first session of that court for the trial of criminal cases held after the date of commitment.
Subsection (b) of the act state that any person committed shall be admitted to bail if 31 days have elapsed between the date of commitment and the time of holding court sessions.
“I aver that my continued detention is also against my right to fair trial and is prejudicial to me. The court ordered the indictment to be amended and to bring treason charges despite the fact that I have resisted the same and wanted to put evidence in opposition,” Motsieloa argues.
He alleges that the court without fully being addresses on the matter before it invoked Section 5 of the CP&E and ruled that Crown has power to charge anyone at any stage.
“… I was not given a chance to oppose the Crown application to amend the charges, I aver that there ought to be notices to everyone likely to be affected if Crown wants renege from its previous position and everyone affected a chance to oppose,” he said.
In admitting the new additional charges, the court made a finding that the accused persons did not demonstrate prejudice they stand to suffer but Motsieloa says the finding was without basis as the court was not welcoming to his lawyer when he sought to dress the court.
“…neither was I given a chance to adduce evidence to demonstrate prejudice; in any event, it was for prosecution to demonstrate lack of prejudice.”
He maintains that joining Metsing and Mochoboroane in his trial will prejudice him and adds that bringing new indictment and charges three years after his committal to prison will further prejudice him.
“I was charged with murder and committed to High Court for the same crime and was not at any given time given a charge of treason. I am now forced to stay more time in prison for the same reason that Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane will have to be accorded their pre-trial rights unless the court is prepared to sweep the same under the carpet…”
He further argues that he will experience additional expenses if he is to endure another lengthy pretrial detention and the trial preparing his defence.
“I am advised and verily believe the same to be true and correct that holding of a joint trial of persons separately indicted is either purported exercise of a non- existent jurisdiction or constitutes an irregularity…”