/ 10 July 2007

Lesotho charges five with treason for attacks

Lesotho on Tuesday charged five men, including three members of the African mountain kingdom’s defence force, with treason in connection with recent attacks on leading politicians.

Towel Majalle, Lehloa Ramotsa and Ramabele Mokhontso, who serve in the military, retired colonel Makotoko Lerotholi and Elias Motlomelo, a civilian, appeared in court in Maseru to face charges of attempting to overthrow the government and committing hostile acts, the South African Press Association reported.

The next hearing was set for July 24, and the men were ordered held without bail at a local prison.

They were arrested by soldiers in the city last weekend, weeks after houses belonging to three government ministers and the leader of the main opposition party were shot at.

The government imposed a curfew on Maseru and surrounding areas after the attacks, which heightened political tensions.

There have been sporadic scuffles between supporters of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and opposition parties over the distribution of seats in Parliament since a disputed election last February.

Members of Parliament from four opposition parties have challenged the validity of an alliance struck between the LCD and the National Independent Party (NIP) shortly before the election, which helped the LCD secure 82 of the 120 seats.

Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by South Africa, was brought to a standstill for several days in March by an opposition-led work boycott, and post-election tensions continue to flare.

The country has experienced political instability since its return to civilian rule in 1993. — Reuters