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Ramoepane to await a foreign judge

Sept. 20, 2018 3 min read

3 min read

Maseru – In a court session on Tuesday, it was revealed that the unavailability of the anticipated foreign judges by the government is the main factor for failure of Major Pitso Ramoepane’s trial to proceed in a civilian court.

According to the High Court Judge Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, his hands are tied as it is in black and white that the judge who will be in charge of the trial has to be a foreign one, thus he postponed the case to October 15, 2018. Following concerns that were brought forward by the accused’s lawyer, Advocate Karabo Mohau KC, Justice Nomngcongo said his hands are tied thus he cannot do anything. Adv. Mohau KC revealed in court yesterday that it is unjust for the accused to have been kept in custody for over a year without trial. Moreover he revealed that Mojor Ramoepane’s financial muscle has been stretched way too far.

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“The accused has been placed in an invidious situation by the state. He is being tried in both the civilian court and the martial court which puts quite a strain on his finances,” he said. Adding onto his statement, he continued to say since the government will be paying the foreign council, it is only fair that the state, to also assist the accused and secure legal representation for him; addingthat it is only appropriate that the two parties are at par on legal entities.

Additionally so, as the crown requested that the trial be postponed, Adv. Mohau KC made it a point that it is unjust to have it postponed as the all parties concerned are available. “The crown is here, the defending party and the court so there is absolutely no reason to have the proceedings fixed to a later date. We had the fixed dates in June,” he said. He added on to say that the accused has been remanded and in custody since 2017.

According to the constitution, Adv. Mohau KC stressed that a person cannot remain in custody exceeding 60 days without being tried. “The trial is ought to have commenced already,” he said. He said duration of over a year is unreasonable for the accused to have remained in custody.  “The accused is entitled to two things: either we have the charges against him dropped or he pleads and the trial commences. There is no reason whatsoever to have expenses on foreign judges as there are judges inland who can preside over the case,” he added.

Justice Nomngcongo said although Adv. Mohau’s concern (that it is unjust to keep somebody in custody over 60 days without being tried is unjust) he finds it difficult and impossible to have the accused tried as per a written document concerning being tried before a foreign judge. However the prosecutor, Adv. Mponeng Ranthithi revealed that the government has secured three judges who will be available in November. She therefore pleaded that the case be postponed. Major Ramoepane is charged with the murder of the Lesotho Defence Force commander Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo in September 2017.

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