MASERU – Murder accused, police Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, was this week released from the Maseru Correctional Facility where he is currently detained in order to go home to collect documents he intends to use in his defense.
Tšukulu is charged along with four others for killing Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng in 2016. He has been detained along with his co-accused for the past three years and their trial is yet to start. High Court judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, on Monday ordered Tšukulu’s release after he had severally pleaded for the court to intervene. Two previous attempts had failed.
Tšukulu claims he has notes or documents at his home which he intends to use as part of his defense. However, he says it has not been easy to access the documents having been denied bail and that his wife is unable to locate the documents at home. His lawyer, Advocate Karabo Mohau KC, asked the court to intervene by ordering the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) to facilitate his client’s movement from the correctional facility to his home for the sole purpose of retrieving the said documents.
Advocate Mohau said it is necessary to secure the said notes so that as Tšukulu’s lawyer, he will be able to take instructions about the documents. Attempts to find the documents in the absence of Tšukulu failed, Mohau said, adding Tšukulu’s wife has indicated she was unable to retrieve the documents on her own, so the suspect need to be released to retrieve the documents. “We have communicated with Mrs Tšukulu about this and she has told us she does not know where those documents are; without the documents, it has been almost meaningless to take instructions,” Mohau said.
Mohau asked judge Hungwe to order his release saying “he is kept in detention on the order of the court and the court can regulate that.” While the prosecution was opposed to Tšukulu’s release citing prison rules which do not permit movement of inmates outside the correctional service, Justice Hungwe ordered the LCS command to facilitate his movement from the facility on or before June 26 to enable him to collect the documents. The judge said it was necessary for Tšukulu to obtain his notes for the purpose of preparing for the trial.
It also transpired during the hearing that the prosecution has amended the indictment with three additional statements that are yet to be served to the accused persons. Advocate Christopher Lephuthing, on behalf of the prosecution, confirmed the indictment has been amended but that lead prosecutor, Advocate Shawn Abrahams, was finalising changes. Lephuthing also told the court that Abrahams was currently in quarantine that is expected to end on July 1 when the trial starts. Judge Hungwe ordered the prosecution to serve the amended indictment to the accused persons by June 26 for the trial to proceed on July 1 as planned.
In the case, Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD) Deputy Leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, apart from Tšukulu, is charged together with former Police Commissioner, Molahlehi Letsoepa, and three other police officers for murdering Khetheng in March 2016. Letsoepa remain at large. The other police officers are Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona, Sub-Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane and Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo. Khetheng, who was stationed in Mokhotlong, disappeared on March 26, 2016, after he was earlier that day arrested by Leribe Police in connection with an arson incident that allegedly occurred at the Hlotse Police Station.
It was alleged that instead of duly booking him, Hlotse police handed him over to their colleagues from Maseru who were in the company of members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF). His disappearance prompted his father, Thabo Khetheng, to lodge a habeas corpus application before the High Court of Lesotho on July 18, 2016, but police authorities defended the matter in court, contending Khetheng had absconded from duty and his whereabouts were unknown.
Police also accused Thabo Khetheng, a member of the family of deliberately omitting crucial information in his court papers. They contended Khetheng’s father also clearly had no “intimate” knowledge of his son’s movements and whereabouts. One of the police officers who arrested Khetheng at his home in Sebothoane, Leribe, later testified against her superiors when the matter continued in court.
Then PC ’Mabohlokoa Makotoko told the court she arrested Khetheng along with Constables Mphutlane and Ntoane before handing him over to their superior officer, Inspector Mofolo, who headed the Criminal Detective Division (CID). In August 2017, Khetheng’s decomposing body was exhumed at the Lepereng Cemetery in Maseru where it was buried in a mass grave, and as part of the investigations, three employees of the Lesotho Funeral Services were also detained and interrogated by police. Khetheng was reburied in Mokhotlong on August 26, 2017.