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Political opposition leader threatens to shoot journalist

(MISA/IFEX) - On 15 October 2010, the leader of Lesotho's main opposition, All Basotho Convention (ABC), threatened to shoot a reporter when asked for comment on a criminal case involving a close family member.

The ABC leader, Tom Thabane made the threats to "Sunday Express" reporter Caswell Tlali when the reporter contacted him on his mobile phone on the evening of 15 October. Africa Media Holdings' Sunday publication, "Sunday Express" ran a story on the criminal case and a version of the threats in its Sunday editions.

The paper quoted Thabane saying "I will not allow you to write this story. This issue is so serious that I will shoot you. I am telling you this openly. I am going to tell the commissioner of police that I will shoot you. This family is mine and I am not going to allow you to write about it in papers."

After issuing his threat, Thabane is also reported to have said "Tell that editor of yours, whom I know is a foreigner, that he will go back to his country without turning back. I will do it myself. I do not care who he is, he is not God. Tell that man I will not allow him to do that."

Both Tlali's news editor Shakeman Mugari and copy editor Darlington Majonga are Zimbabwean nationals who have been in the country since the company began publishing its weekly "Lesotho Times" and "Sunday Express" weekly newspapers.

The criminal courts in Maseru are hearing a case involving allegations of attempted rape by Thabane's cousin and assaults by two of his sons against Thabane's estranged wife.

Tlali, who told MISA Lesotho that he took the threat seriously, said that after telling Thabane that there is a public interest in the court case, the politician replied by saying, "There is no public interest in this story."

Contacted by MISA Lesotho on 19 October, Thabane admitted making the comments and apologised for the statements. However he said that he was angry because a dispute featuring his family was going to be aired publicly in the media.

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