14 February 2013

Namibia: Treason Defence to Map Out Strategy

THE defence team representing the 65 remaining accused persons in the main Caprivi high treason trial plan to wrap up their clients' defence case within this year still.

Defence counsel Patrick Kauta, speaking on behalf of the defence team, gave this undertaking to Judge Elton Hoff in the High Court at Windhoek Central Prison yesterday, when most of the remaining 65 accused persons returned to court following the discharge of 43 other accused by Judge Hoff on Monday.

The defence have now been given another week and a half to decide on the strategy they want to follow when they present their defence case.

Two members of a group of 16 remaining accused who are not legally represented and who have been boycotting the trial also appeared in court again yesterday - only to inform Judge Hoff that they have decided to remain absent from the trial until it has reached its end.

The unrepresented group is still intent on challenging the court's jurisdiction, one of the group's members, Thaddeus Ndala, said to the judge. The group has been disputing that a Namibian court has jurisdiction over a case which emanated from the Caprivi Region.

Kauta told the court that the defence plan to present their case to the court within this year, and not to take as long as the prosecution did with its case. Kauta asked Judge Hoff to postpone the case to February 27 so that the defence could have time to consult their clients, obtain the names and addresses of possible defence witness who could be called to testify, and then to decide whether those witnesses and the accused will be testifying when the defence presents its case to the court.

Kauta said by February 27 the defence then plan to ask the court to have subpoenas issued for defence witnesses who should testify, and that the subpoenas should then be served on the witnesses over the course of three weeks after that.

By March 20, he said, defence witnesses should be in court to be warned to be present in order to testify, and after that the defence should be in a position to start to place their evidence before the court.

Once the defence have started with their case they plan to run with it to its conclusion, Kauta added.

The leader of the prosecution team, Deputy Prosecutor General Herman January, objected to the length of the postponement requested by Kauta. He said the defence had time over the years that the trial has been running, and over the months that the judge considered his judgement on the defence's application for the discharge of the accused following the close of the State's case, to consult their clients and identify defence witnesses who might be needed.

With Kauta's agreement, Judge Hoff decided to postpone the trial to February 25.

The prosecution presented testimony from 379 witnesses to the court from August 24 2004, when Judge Hoff started to hear evidence, until February 7 last year, when the State's case was closed.

Judge Hoff heard arguments on the defence team's application for the discharge of the represented accused during September and at the start of October last year.

The remaining accused all face 278 charges, which include a main count of high treason, nine charges of murder, 240 counts of attempted murder, and charges of sedition, public violence, and the illegal importation and possession of firearms and ammunition.

The charges are based on allegations that the accused had been involved in a conspiracy to secede the Caprivi Region from Namibia between January 1992 and December 2002.

In his judgement on Monday, Judge Hoff found that there was evidence before the court which indicated that the remaining 65 accused had either committed overt acts from which a hostile intent to overthrow the authority of the State in the Caprivi Region could be inferred, or that they had associated with a common criminal enterprise to commit high treason, or that they had been aware of treasonous acts and had failed to report this to the authorities.

All of the accused are remaining in custody.

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