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Jail for Namibia's secessionists
August 8, 2007
Jail for Namibia's secessionists

Ten men found guilty of treason for leading a secessionist rebellion in Namibia's Caprivi region have been sentenced to long prison terms.
They were expelled from the courtroom before their sentences were handed down for shouting "Viva Caprivi".

Seven of them received a 32 year jail sentence; the other three got 30 years.

None of the accused recognised the court's authority, saying they were not Namibian. More than 100 other people are still in detention awaiting trial.

'Most serious crime'

The BBC's Frauke Jensen in the capital, Windhoek, says there was tight security at the packed courtroom for the sentencing.

Judge John Manyarara said such long prison sentences were necessary.

"High treason is one of the most serious crimes anybody can commit in today's world," he said.

He had found the men guilty a week ago - some of going to Angola in 1998 to collect weapons then used in an attack in Caprivi region, the finger-shaped stretch of land north of Botswana.

In 1999, a police station, border post, the offices of the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation, a military base and a bank came under attack in Caprivi's main town of Katima Mulilo.

Twelve people died in the rebellion, before it was crushed by the military.

One person was found guilty of recruiting people for the Caprivi Liberation Army and others of trying to regroup and redeploy from 2001 onwards.

The men have the right to appeal, although this is unlikely as the men do not recognise the court's proceedings, our reporter says.

They claim they were abducted from Botswana, where they were living in a refugee camp, to face trial in a country they do not recognise.

Our correspondent says there have been some human rights questions raised about the length of men's detention.

But overall, she says, Namibians believe Caprivi to be part of Namibia and are likely to support the stiff sentences.

The person behind the secessionist movement, Mishake Muyongo, formerly a prominent politician in the country, has been living in exile in Denmark since the events of August 1999.

The trial of the other 119 accused, which started in 2003, will continue in September.


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