Lawyers for Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane have told a court that he cannot be charged over the murder of his estranged wife because his position makes him immune from prosecution.
Thabane’s then-wife, Lipolelo Thabane, was shot dead in 2017.
Thabane would be the first African leader to be charged with domestic murder while in office.
The case has shocked many in the small landlocked kingdom, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.
At Monday’s hearing, defence lawyer Qhalehang Letsika said: “My client cannot be prosecuted while in office but he is not above the law.”
The magistrate referred the case to the High Court, which will be sitting as the Constitutional Court, when it hears the case with a panel of at least three judges.
Thabane, 80, missed a court appearance last week because he went to South Africa for medical treatment.
He rejected reports that he had fled the country. In January, his wife also went to South Africa after police issued a warrant of arrest against her.
Thabane has said he would step down in July, resisting pressure from his own party to leave office immediately.
It has been reported that Thabane wants to seek immunity for himself and his current wife, who has already been charged with Lipolelo Thabane’s murder but it is not clear what that would mean for the murder case.
The country’s top legal minds – a full bench of judges in the High Court – will need to decipher what the law allows. What is not in doubt is that this case will test Lesotho’s laws and the independence of the judiciary.
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