Bid to quash Treason trial

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By Itumeleng Koleile

The High Court has postponed the treason trial meant to take off from January 10th – 17th following defense counsel’s plea to have the indictment quashed.

Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane postponed the treason trial to give the defense counsel time to file a motion to quash the indictment after advocate Motiea Teele King’s Counsel’s pleaded with the court that he be allowed to file a motion to quash the indictment.

Teele KC said the decision to file the motion to quash the charges against his client—Development Planning Minister and Movement for Economic Change leader Selibe Mochoboroane—was based on what he discovered in the particulars of the indictment as he was perusing them.

Teele said he had previously requested that the crown council furnish him with the further particulars of the case and he only received them on January 7th, 2022.

He said having gone through the further particulars and the answers that have been given by the prosecution in relation to the charges, he has decided to file for the motion to quash such charges as he believes they are only meant to prejudice his client, Mochoboroane.

Teele told the court that without any failure, the defense counsel will file for the motion Today.

The case is about charges of treason, murder, and attempted murder in which former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli is charged alongside Mochoboroane, leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, other soldiers.

On August 30, 2014, at the height of the conflict between then coalition government partners Thomas Thabane and Metsing, the army stormed police stations under an operation that was later explained as having been intended to stop police from arming Thabane’s militant party youths who were going to attack Metsing’s party members who were set to stage a protest.

But the incident led to the gruesome killing of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko by soldiers at the Police Headquarters, while Thabane and then minority coalition ally Thesele ‘Maseribane of the Basotho National Party fled the country arguing Kamoli had attempted a coup.

Metsing’s whereabouts are unknown as he had not been showing up for court proceedings and a warrant for his arrest has since been issued.

In addressing the accused, Justice Sakoane said the postponement of the matter is primarily due to the fact that Teele has advised that after having gone through the particulars of the case he has concluded that his client should not plead today to avoid prejudice of any kind.

“Teele KC has requested that he be given time to apply for the motion to quash the indictment. Motion to quash is a right that can be utilized by the accused,” the Chief Justice said.

Justice Sakoane added that the law provides that the defense be given an opportunity to file for a motion to quash, while the prosecution has to be given an opportunity to respond.

But, Director of Public Prosecution, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane had also filed a notice of motion on the same day to have the trial postponed on grounds that the lead prosecutor and a South African lawyer, Shaun Abrahams would not be available for the dates that have been set for trial.

“I furthermore wish to mention, for the purposes of the present application the fact that in or around the 13th December 2021, and this is information I received from outside the Counsel I have retained, Adv. Shaun Abrahams and which I verily believed to be true, when this trial was postponed to the 10th January 10, 2022, and subsequent up to and including the 17th, made it very clear that due to prior engagement in a case in the Republic of South Africa, unless he somehow managed to get out of that brief, he would be unavailable for the intended hearing from the 10th January 2022 onwards,” reads part of a notice of motion by Motinyane.

Motinyane had instructed advocate Hopolang Nathane to present the notice of motion before the court, but Justice Sakoane stopped him from presenting the notice ruling that he is not the prosecutor in the case and thus he is not obliged to carry out such a task.

Moreover, the Chief Justice told the court that he was not intending to postpone the trial any further as it has been dragging for far too long.

Justice Sakoane said he was supposed to be on holiday but he cut short his holidays to attend the treason trial hence he cannot allow it to be postponed for unclear reasons.

He added the accused had already been in detention since 2017.

The court was adjourned for an hour to have Prosecutor ‘Naki Nku communicate with her superior, Motinyane, and inform her that the Chief justice has ruled that if the treason trial would not be prosecuted in the absence of Abrahams, then the court would be forced to dismiss the case.

This prompted Motinyane to appoint advocate Nku to carry on with the case in the absence of Abrahams.

The court learned that Nku, despite having been seen attending and or shadowing Abrahams in the treason trial was just “a passenger” who knew nothing about the nuanced details of the case and would only be studying the case file now.

The case has been postponed to Friday when parties would argue the motion to quash the indictment.

Justice Sakoane said the witnesses, whom Nku said were over 90 should “without failure be before the court on Monday” when the trial is expected to resume.