(MENAFN- The Post) MASERU – A lawyer appointed by the High Court to defend soldiers charged with the murder of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao has been withdrawn after it became clear he was conflicted.
The High Court withdrew Advocate Thulo Hoeane's appointment to appear pro deo, which is legal work undertaken without charge, for Corporals Molefi Seitlheko and Marasi ''Moleli yesterday.
It was after the court learnt that Advocate Hoeane prosecuted the two soldiers in the Court Martial for the same case he was about to defend.
It also learnt that Advocate Hoeane wrote a column in a local newspaper condemning the soldiers.
Advocate Hoeane told thepost yesterday that the office of the High Court registrar approached him with the proposal to appear for the two soldiers pro deo, under the arrangement that legal bills would be footed by the court not the accused.
''I was expecting them to call again with the arrangement but when they called back they told me that I was no longer appointed,'' Advocate Hoeane said.
His replacement, Advocate Napo Mafaesa, said even though Advocate Hoeane was ready to proceed with the case ''it was not going to be possible as he did not even meet with the accused persons for consultation''.
The two soldiers did not have a lawyer because their counsel of record, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda KC, dumped them without stating any reasons to the court.
The soldiers told the court that they did not even know that their lawyer would no longer represent them.
''As a result, Advocate Hoeane cannot, on principle, defend them,'' Advocate Mafaesa said.
He said he took a principled decision to accept the appointment as he already has two other clients in the same case, Corporal Motšoane Machai and Sergeant Motsamai Fako.
''So, it won''t take (much of) the court's time to begin the trial,'' Advocate Mafaesa said.
Advocate Mafaesa has been appointed pro deo after he and other defence lawyers requested for the arrangement from the High Court without success.
Advocate Mafaesa said he is ready to proceed with the case, however he pleaded with the court to give him a day to prepare himself.
The case is expected to proceed today as the first witness will be called in the box.
Mahao was gunned down in June 2015 after a vicious power struggle with the then army boss, Lietenant General Tlali Kamoli.
Lt Gen Kamoli has been in remand prison since 2017.
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