20 April 2017

Namibia: Treason Retrial Shifted to May

Photo: The Herald
(File photo).

THE second trial of eight men charged with high treason in connection with their alleged involvement in a plan to secede the former Caprivi region from Namibia is now scheduled to start next month.

The latest starting date of the eight men's trial is 15 May, they were informed when they made another appearance in the Windhoek High Court on Tuesday.

The eight accused were due to go on trial on Tuesday, but their matter did not proceed as planned after defence lawyers Ilse Agenbach, who is representing six of the accused, and Jorge Neves, representing two accused, informed acting judge Petrus Unengu that the state's evidence and the record of their clients' first trial in the High Court had still not been disclosed to them to enable them to prepare for the trial.

Agenbach has also indicated to the judge that her clients plan to raise an objection against the court's jurisdiction at the start of their retrial.

The state is accusing the eight of having either been members of an armed secessionist organisation in the former Caprivi region, the Caprivi Liberation Army, or of having associated with the organisation, and of having conspired to overthrow the Namibian government in the region between September 1998 and December 2003.

The eight accused and four co-accused went through a first trial in the High Court between 2005 and 2007. That trial ended with 10 of them being convicted of high treason and sentenced to prison terms of either 30 or 32 years each in August 2007.

Almost six years later, in July 2013, the Supreme Court set aside their convictions and sent their case back to the High Court for a retrial, after finding that the judge who presided over their first trial should have recused himself from the matter when he was asked to do so following his dismissal of a jurisdiction challenge raised by the accused.

The same jurisdiction challenge, based on a claim that eight of the accused involved in the first trial had been brought to Namibia illegally by being abducted from Botswana before they were arrested and charged by the Namibian authorities, was again raised before acting judge Unengu, who dismissed the challenge in November 2014.

The issue was pursued up to the Supreme Court, though, and in August last year, that court dismissed the appeal of seven of the accused, and again sent their case back to the High Court for them to stand trial.

The appeal of one of the accused was upheld after the Supreme Court found that Namibian officials violated international law when, in December 2002, he was brought from Botswana to Namibia, where he was arrested and charged. The court ordered a permanent stay of prosecution against him in respect of the charges he was facing.

One of the accused in the matter was not part of the jurisdiction challenge raised before acting judge Unengu, while another died in October 2013.

All of the remaining eight accused, who are in custody while awaiting their retrial, have by now been in jail for more than 13 years.

Frederick Ntambilwa was arrested in July 2002, Hoster Ntombo and John Tembwe were arrested in September 2002, and Progress Munuma, Shine Samulandela, Manuel Makendano, Alex Mushakwa, and Diamond Salufu were arrested in December 2003.

They are charged with counts of high treason, sedition, public violence, and illegal possession of ammunition, and two charges of importing, possessing or supplying weaponry and ammunition for such weapons.

State advocate Neville Wamambo is due to represent the state when the trial starts.

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