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Ex-MP's fourth bail request rejected
December 7, 2006
Ex-MP's fourth bail request rejected


A FOURTH attempt to persuade a court to release them on bail ended in failure for high treason suspects Geoffrey Mwilima and Barnard Mucheka yesterday.

Seven years and four months have passed since former National Assembly member Mwilima (51) and former NBC executive producer Mucheka (57) were arrested on suspicions that they had taken part in an alleged plot to secede the Caprivi Region.

The more than seven years they have spent in custody awaiting the finalisation of the trial - in which they and 117 co-accused face a mammoth 278 charges in connection with that alleged conspiracy - will not end any time soon, it appears from the decision Judge Elton Hoff handed down in the High Court at the Windhoek Central Prison yesterday.

Echoing remarks he made when he dismissed the last bail application from Mwilima and Mucheka four years ago, Judge Hoff again concluded his ruling on the two men's most recent request to be granted bail by stating that he had not been convinced that Mwilima and Mucheka had been able to prove to the court that they should be released on bail.

In any event, he added, in another echo of the ruling he gave in the High Court on December 12 2002, it would not be in the public interest or in the interest of justice to release them on bail at this stage.

HEALTH DILEMMA Some of the grounds on which Mwilima and Mucheka based this application were claims that the Police and prison authorities have not been adhering to a previous order from Judge Hoff in terms of which they had to ensure that Mwilima and Mucheka, who both suffer from serious health problems, receive their prescribed diets and the required medical attention.

On this issue, at least, Judge Hoff made some findings in Mwilima's and Mucheka's favour and directed strong criticism at the Police and prison authorities.

He remarked that during the hearing of the bail application, which included an inspection visit to the section of the Windhoek Central Prison where the men accused in the main Caprivi high treason trial are kept, he gained the impression that the prison authorities regarded the mere provision of daily food rations to the two men as compliance with his previous order that a specific prescribed diet has to be provided to them.

That view of the prison authorities was a misconception, Judge Hoff said.

Recalling that he had heard testimony that the two men had missed scores of doctors' appointments since their previous bail application was turned down, Judge Hoff noted that the Police's high treason investigation unit has a staff of more than 70 Police officers, with 16 vehicles assigned to it.

Its inability to ensure that the two men are taken to meet appointments with their doctors is an untenable situation, which in his view points to insensitivity and a lack of diligence on the part of the Police officers involved, Judge Hoff commented.

It was clear that "obstructionist conduct" has since the previous bail application continued to be perpetrated by officials supposed to be responsible for the wellbeing of the two men, Judge Hoff said.

This situation, he stated, infringes on the two men's human rights both in terms of Namibia's Constitution and under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Namibia is a party.

On the other hand, he added, the conditions in prison were not as dire as the two men would make the court believe.

Non-compliance with the provisions of the ICCPR also did not provide sufficient grounds to warrant a decision that they should be released on bail, the Judge added.

WHYS & WHEREFORES On the merits of the State's case against the two, Judge Hoff recounted that the prosecution has so far produced evidence that Mwilima associated himself with the proposed secession of the Caprivi Region, that he addressed meetings on that issue, and that he was present at meetings where a secessionist armed force, the Caprivi Liberation Army, was formed and where plans were discussed to procure weapons from Angola.

Mucheka has so far been implicated to a lesser extent.

He was supposed to announce a planned secessionist takeover of the Caprivi Region over the NBC's broadcasting network, the court has been told, Judge Hoff noted.

Both Mwilima and Mucheka have denied involvement in the activities of a separatist movement in the Caprivi Region.

While he agreed that it would be inappropriate and premature to evaluate at this stage the evidence that has been produced by the State, Judge Hoff commented that he had not been persuaded that the State's case could at such an early stage in the trial already be described as flawed and weak.

Deputy Prosecutors General Herman January and Taswald July and State advocate Niel Lakay represented the State during the bail hearing.

Herman Oosthuizen and Jorge Neves represented Mwilima and Mucheka


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