THE third Caprivi high treason trial, which has been taking place in the Oshakati High Court over the course of more than six years, ended this week in an effective prison term of 10 years.
The long-running trial came to an end on Tuesday, when judge Marlene Tommasi sentenced Albius Moto Liseli, whom she found guilty of high treason two months ago, to 20 years' imprisonment. Ten years of the 20-year prison term were suspended for a period of five years on condition that Liseli is not again convicted of high treason, committed during the period of suspension.
There was no doubt that high treason was a very serious offence, judge Tommasi told Liseli (60) during the sentencing. As a Namibian citizen, Liseli owed allegiance to the Republic of Namibia - yet he and others compromised the safety, security and stability of the Namibian state and its inhabitants, she remarked.
Judge Tommasi stated: "Namibia is a multiparty democracy, which enjoys high political, economic and social stability. Offences of this nature threaten every aspect of the security, peace and stability which has been attained. Society has a right to protection against such crimes."
Liseli was arrested in early January 2009, after he had surrendered to the Namibian authorities, and has been in jail since then.
Judge Tommasi recounted during the sentencing that after Liseli received a call to join other people to continue with a fight for the secession of the then Caprivi region from Namibia, he fled from his home village in Zambezi to Zambia, where he lived until he decided to return to Namibia and hand himself over to the authorities.
The fact that Liseli led a crime-free life until he became involved with a separatist movement in Zambezi, and that he later had a change of heart about his participation in secessionist activities, showed he was capable of reform, and should be given an opportunity to later return to society, judge Tommasi remarked.
She recounted that according to the evidence on which Liseli was convicted, he joined training camps in Caprivi, where a group of people planning to take up arms to secede the region from Namibia had gathered, before he and 91 other people from the training camps fled to Botswana with arms and ammunition near the end of 1998.
Liseli spent almost two years in a refugee camp in Botswana, where he was when armed separatists staged surprise attacks at Katima Mulilo on 2 August 1999.
With the attempted insurrection in Caprivi having been suppressed and more than 140 people arrested and charged with high treason following the attacks, Liseli returned to Namibia in 2001 and joined a group whose aim was to continue to pursue the secession of the region.
Liseli and company did not turn out to be anything close to a formidable fighting force, though. Judge Tommasi noted: "This group did not do anything as they were constrained due to a lack of weapons, clothes and food. [Liseli] returned to his village, and when called upon to join others to continue with the fight for secession, fled to Zambia, where he lived until his arrest in January 2009."
During the time that he spent at separatist training camps at Sachona and Lyibulyibu, Liseli and others were taught how to handle firearms, judge Tommasi found when she convicted Liseli in February. She also found that after he had been invited in November 2001 to again take up arms for the secession of Caprivi, Liseli had a duty as a Namibian citizen to report the plans that he knew about to the police, but failed to do so.
Liseli's trial started in September 2010, when he denied guilt on a count of high treason.
Defence lawyer Unanisa Hengari represented Liseli on instructions from the Directorate of Legal Aid. The state was represented by deputy prosecutor general Ruben Shileka.