Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Defence lawyers object to heavily armed police officers in Court

There was a heavy armed police presence at the Lobatse High Court on Friday as Thabo Stimela came for his bail application.

Lobatse High court judge Michael Leburu dismissed oral application by the defence team representing Stimela, Aubrey Nkuna and Kegone Sebina, insisting their position was against the traditional norms of a transparent, fair and open court.

Stimela, a former Botswana Defence Force commando with dual South African and Botswana citizenship, is charged alongside Nkuna, a South African, and Sebina, a Botswana citizen, with the death of Lesley Managa Ntshwane in Mochudi.

Owing to his safe citizenship as a Motswana, Sebina has since been granted bail pending trial whilst Sidney Pilane, Unoda Mack and Mmusi Kgafela are exploring all legal means to free Stimela and Nkuna whom the state fear would skip bail for South Africa – a country that is against the death penalty and which refuses to extradite suspects charged with murder unless assurance is given that they would not be hanged if convicted.

Leading the defence for the bail application, Pilane momentarily took issue with the escort and heavy presence of the paramilitary inside the court, arguing that they were a menace to the normally cordial atmosphere inside Court.

He pleaded with the Court to make an immediate order for the removal of paramilitary police whom he said he could not distinguish whether they were police officers or soldiers because of their unusual grey combat gear.

“My Lord, before we continue with today’s business, we would like to make some comments over the house-keeping issues. We are concerned about the overwhelming presence of the police, or are they soldiers, in this court,” said Pilane.

“Prison warders and court orderly police officers should be inside the court but as it stands they are aided by another odd and threatening crew. The atmosphere inside the court should remain dignified. But as it is the situation resembles circumstances of siege,” he noted, adding that such a situation should not be permitted in the Republic of Botswana.

“This is the Republic of Botswana. They should be outside of the premises,” Pilane said, urging the court to take his application seriously “because it taints the image of reputed sacred judicial systems in the country”.

An infamous suspect in several robbery cases, Stimela’s appearance in court attracts a heavy presence of armed police and paramilitary officers who will not leave anything to chance.

While Ambrose Mubikwa of the Directorate of Public Prosecution did not object to the application, Justice Leburu, however, did not entertain the application, saying it was strange for the defence to come up with such a position.

“This court espouses the fundamental issues of a fair, transparent and open hearing,” he argued, insisting for the police officers to be removed from the court would be a violation of such noble values.

“The application is therefore refused,” he declared.

Although the defence team wanted to continue with the issue at hand because of its urgency, Mubikwa could not, saying the founding petitioner’s affidavit for their bail application pending trial arrived late for his satisfactory perusal.

He pleaded for the postponement of the matter and the court acceded.

“In dealing with this matter, the court executed its judicial discretion striking a balance between the accused persons and the DPP and ultimately agreed with the arguments raised with the prosecution that they be allowed reasonable time to come with a fair trial,” Leburu declared, postponing the case to next week Monday.

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