News and Information

Marathon treason trial takes a break
December 6, 2007
Marathon treason trial takes a break


THE main Caprivi high treason trial is set to continue early next year, after one of its busiest and most productive sessions yet ended in the High Court on the grounds of Windhoek Central Prison last week.

Three years and counting after the main part of the trial started before Judge Elton Hoff in the High Court at Grootfontein, no end is in sight yet for the trial, in which 117 men face a total of 278 charges in connection with their alleged involvement in a plot to secede the Caprivi Region from Namibia.

The trial is now scheduled to continue from January 21.

The most recent session of the trial, which started on September 17 after a seven-week break in proceedings, has proved to be its busiest session yet in terms of the number of witnesses who have passed through the witness box.

In the session from mid-September to Wednesday last week, 113 prosecution witnesses testified before Judge Hoff.

This is the largest number of witnesses to have testified yet in any session of the trial.

In the previous session of the trial from early June to the end of July, only 10 State witnesses gave evidence.

In the session before that, from mid-January to mid April, 32 prosecution witnesses testified, while in the last session of the trial last year - this was also from mid-September to near the end of November - 28 State witnesses gave evidence.

Altogether 234 prosecution witnesses have so far testified in the main part of the trial.

Together with State witnesses who have given evidence only in trials within a trial to determine the admissibility of evidence that the prosecution has wanted to introduce, 239 prosecution witnesses have had their turn on the witness stand since the main part of the trial kicked off at Grootfontein on August 23 2004.

The typed transcripts of proceedings in the trial now run over a mammoth 21 157 pages.

Actual court proceedings in the trial have taken place over more than 260 days in all.

Deputy Prosecutor General Herman January, who is leading the prosecution team, told The Namibian yesterday that the prosecution could easily present evidence from another more than hundred witnesses - conservatively estimated - to the court before closing its case.

At the current rate that proceedings have been taking place, the State could close its case in the second half of next year, January said.

That estimated time frame would however depend on whether objections will be raised to evidence that the prosecution still plans to present to the court, and whether this would force trials within a trial to be held again to determine the admissibility of such evidence, January added.

The trial started with evidence being led in a bid to prove that a conspiracy to secede the Caprivi Region from Namibia had been hatched as far back as 1992 already.

The prosecution then moved the focus of its case to evidence intended to prove that plans were made, meetings were held, and preparations were made to promote the goal of secession, and that these activities culminated in the surprise attacks that ragtag armed separatists, allegedly under the banner of the Caprivi Liberation Army, carried out at Katima Mulilo on August 2 1999.

In the most recent phase of the trial, the prosecution has called dozens of witnesses - mostly members of the Namibia Defence Force and Namibian Police who were present at targets that came under attack on August 2 1999 - to the witness stand to give evidence in a bid to prove some of the 240 counts of attempted murder that the 117 men on trial are facing.

According to January, the prosecution has also been presenting evidence to the court that deals with the role that individual accused persons in the trial are accused of having played in the alleged secessionist plot and its execution.

When the trial resumes, evidence must still be presented on various exhibits - such as firearms and other weaponry confiscated after the attacks at Katima Mulilo - that should become part of the evidence, on ballistics tests that were done on seized firearms, on diaries that some of the accused men are alleged to have kept, on confessions and admissions that some of the accused are claimed to have made after being arrested, and on the Police's investigation of the case, January said.

Thirty of the accused men who are not recognising the court's power to try them are still boycotting proceedings in the trial.

They and their co-accused all remain in custody.

Most of them, having been arrested in the aftermath of the Katima Mulilo attacks, will this year be spending their ninth Christmas in jail as trial-awaiting prisoners.


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