Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane claims that he cannot be charged with the murder of his ex-wife because of his position.
Lawyers for Thabane, who was expected to be charged in the killing of his estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane, told the court that his office grants him immunity from prosecution, according to TheDailyBeast.
Thomas Thabane and his current wife Maesaiah Thabane, who has been charged with the murder of Lipolelo, appeared in court on Feb. 24.
The 80-year-old leader missed his original Feb. 21 court date, claiming that he was in South Africa for a medical checkup.
The prime minister’s lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, argued that a murder charge against a sitting prime minister raised a constitutional issue that needed to be resolved before charges could be read against his client, TheGuardian reports.
The judge, Phethise Motanyane, agreed to refer the case to the High Court.
Thabane would be the first African leader to be charged with domestic murder while in office, according to the BBC.
Lipolelo was shot and killed outside her home in Maseru in June 2017, two days before the prime minister’s inauguration. Lipolelo and Thomas Thabane were involved in bitter divorce proceedings at the time of her murder, BBC reported.
In 2015, during her husband’s first term in office, the courts decided to recognize Lipolelo as Lesotho’s first lady, even though the prime minister wanted her spousal benefits offered to Maesaiah, who was then living with him as if she was his wife.
New evidence emerged in January implicating the prime minister after phone records showed that he had communicated via his mobile phone with whoever was at the scene of the murder.
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On Feb. 20, following pressure from the public and within his own political party, the prime minister announced plans to step down at the end of July.
Eight other people in Lesotho and South Africa have also been arrested in connection with the murder of 58-year-old Lipolelo.
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