Lesotho first lady freed on bail before murder trial

Maesaiah Thabane’s lawyer says she’ll head to S Africa for medical treatment amid police fears she could flee justice.

Maesaiah Thabane, wife of Lesotho''s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, appears in court in Maseru
Maesaiah Thabane appeared in court in Maseru on Wednesday [Marafeale Mohloboli/Reuters]

The wife of Lesotho‘s prime minister has been released on bail before her February 18 trial for the murder of his previous wife, her lawyer said.

Maesaiah Thabane was detained and charged this week for the murder of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane‘s estranged wife Lipolelo, who was shot dead near her home in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, on June 14, 2017, aged 58. She denies the charges.

Following the bail order, the 42-year-old’s lawyer said she would travel to neighbouring South Africa for a medical examination.

“My client is entitled to bail. She is still innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law. She is not a flight risk,” Rethabile Setlojoane told Reuters News Agency by phone.

The police, however, expressed concern she could flee justice if allowed to travel abroad for medical reasons.

“Had we been allowed to oppose the bail, we would have raised the possibility of her escape,” Paseka Mokete, deputy police commissioner, said.

“We are of the view that should she skip the country, it will be very easy for her [to escape],” he said, adding that if she failed to return, police would seek assistance from South African authorities to arrest her.

Maesaiah Thabane, who fled the country on January 10 to escape arrest, returned to the small southern African kingdom on Tuesday afternoon and handed herself to police in Maseru. Police said she had been hiding in neighbouring South Africa.

The killing occurred two days before Thabane’s inauguration for a second term in 2017 and two years after a court ruled that Lipolelo, 58, was the lawful first lady and entitled to benefits.

The murder of sent shockwaves through the tiny mountain kingdom. The 80-year-old prime minister, who married his current wife two months after Lipolelo’s killing, has yet to address the case publicly.

People around the country are concerned about the political ramifications,” Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller said.

They’ve had some marches, pushing for the prime minister to step down because the scandal has affected his credibility,” Miller said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies