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Knives out for Abrahams

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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Mohalenyane Phakela

PROMINENT human rights lawyer, Fusi Sehapi, has petitioned the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to arrest lead prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, and charge him for allegedly defeating the ends of justice.

Advocate Sehapi is basing his petition on allegations by Retired Colonel Thato Phaila that Adv Abrahams had twisted his (Phaila’s) written testimony to say that the latter had testified that former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, had ordered the military operation which led to the assassination of army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, on 25 June 2015.

Kamoli and eight other soldiers are on trial for Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Mahao’s murder. His co-accused are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.

While being led by Adv Abrahams in giving his evidence in the High Court on 8 July 2021, Retired Colonel Phaila accused Adv Abrahams of changing his affidavit to give the impression that he (Phaila) had implicated Kamoli in the Mahao murder. He said Kamoli could not have ordered the arrest of Lt-Gen Mahao and his subsequent killing as he (Kamoli) was allegedly not in the country at the time.

Kamoli and his co-accused had then seized on Retired Colonel Phaila’s claims to file an ultimately unsuccessful application for the recusal of Adv Abrahams from prosecuting their trial.

In a new turn of events, the Lesotho Times has established that Adv Sehapi has acted on Retired Colonel Phaila’s allegations and taken it upon himself to petition the police to arrest Adv Abrahams.

In his letter to Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, this week, Adv Sehapi says that, “On 4 November 2022, I went to the Central Police Charge office in the district of Maseru with the intention of opening criminal charges against the Lead Crown Counsel Shaun Abrahams.

“The reason for the charge being that the said counsel allegedly caused the Crown witness namely: Colonel Thato Phaila in a certain CRI/T/004/2018 (Mahao murder case) to fabricate evidence in order to falsely implicate one of the accused persons in the said criminal case – namely: Tlali Kennedy Kamoli, and thereby committing a serious offence of defeating the ends of justice.

“At the said charge office, the attending officer who identified herself as Ms Sehe, referred me to the Police Headquarters on the allegations that cases of this nature are only lodged at the Police Headquarters. I accordingly lay a complaint of a commission of the offence against the said Adv Abrahams before the Lesotho Mounted Police Service so that justice may not only be done, but should also manifestly be seen to be done.”

Adv Sehapi’s letter to Commissioner Molibeli is titled:  “Opening of a formal criminal charge against the Lead Crown Counsel”.

He also wrote an affidavit wherein he said Retired Colonel Phaila had made serious allegations against Adv Abrahams which ought to have been investigated.

“This was a serious allegation of defeating or obstructing the course of justice. Nine accused persons are facing a capital charge of murder.

“It does not sit well with my conscience that such a serious allegation implicating a role occupant in our Kingdom’s prosecuting authority has not precipitated an appropriate investigation of the matter. Consequently, I hereby lay a complaint of a commission of the said offence against Adv Abrahams before the Lesotho Mounted Police Service so that justice may not only be done but should manifestly be seen to be done,” Adv Sehapi states.

After Retired Colonel Phaila’s July 2021 testimony, Kamoli and his co-accused had applied for the removal of Adv Abrahams as the prosecutor in their trial.

They argued in their recusal application that Adv Abrahams was fabricating evidence against them to ensure that they were convicted and sentenced to death.

However, Judge Charles Hungwe dismissed their application, ruling that they had failed to make out a case against Adv Abrahams.

Contacted for comment this week, Adv Abrahams dismissed Adv Sehapi’s “absurd” application against him.

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention. It is the first time I’m hearing about this case against me. However, these are issues which have long been dealt with by the High Court. Those allegations are absurd,” Adv Abrahams said.

Adv Abrahams is a former head of South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority. The South African lawyer was roped in by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, in 2018 to prosecute the high-profile trials of politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies accused of impunity and gross human rights crimes.