News and Information
Treason admission 'suicidal'
|September 29, 2004
| Treason admission 'suicidal'
A "suicidal and fatal" admission on behalf of John Samboma - one of the central figures in the Caprivi high treason trial - and two co-accused has irregularly found its way onto the trial's record of proceedings, a defence lawyer argued in a surprise application yesterday.
Defence counsel Henry Chanda told Judge Elton Hoff of the implied admission, which he said would destroy the alibi and defence of Samboma and two co-accused, when he applied in the High Court at Grootfontein for a part of the record to be expunged.
Chanda's application went on to be dismissed.
His address to Judge Hoff nevertheless gave the court an inkling of the high stakes attached to the part of the record that Chanda complained about.
It also offered the first indication of what Samboma's defence would be to the 278 charges - including counts of high treason, sedition, murder, attempted murder, and illegal possession of an array of firearms and ammunition - that he and 119 co-accused are facing.
It would be - to some extent at least - an alibi, Chanda indicated.
The part he wanted struck from the record concerns a statement that another member of the defence team, Jonathan Samukange, made to State witness Oscar Mwisepi while Samukange was winding up his cross-examination of the witness on Wednesday last week.
Mwisepi had testified that, after the widespread arrests that followed alleged separatist attacks at Katima Mulilo on August 2 1999, he had been involved in efforts to arrange a regrouping of people adhering to an ideal to secede the Caprivi Region.
He claimed that in that time he was sent to meet Samboma and four other suspects now on trial.
They met in the bush at the village of Masida, some 80 kilometres southwest of Katima Mulilo, where he had to deliver food to them.
He found them - Samboma, Richard John Samati, Richard Misuha, Bennet Mutuso and Oscar Muyuka Puteho - armed, he claimed.
Samukange put it to Mwisepi that when he had met Samboma and his group on October 22 1999 they had been unarmed.
That date was mentioned in a statement that Mwisepi had made to the Police.
Chanda told the Judge yesterday that the statement put to the witness was, by implication, an admission by his clients Samboma, Samati and Misuha, since it implied that Mwisepi had actually met them at Masida, in Namibia, on October 22 1999.
"My Lord, this admission is suicidal and fatal to my clients‚ defence," Chanda said.
That was because his strict instructions from the three men were that they had not been at Masida that day, and that they were not even in Namibia.
They were in Zambia, until they were arrested there on November 2 1999 and later brought to Namibia, Chanda added.
If Samukange had been properly instructed on that score, he would not have made such a statement, Chanda said.
He argued that unless the court ordered that this section be struck from the record, the trio would not have a fair trial, since that admission, which was not of their own making, would deprive them of their sole defence - an alibi.
Samukange tried to smooth over the issue by remarking that it would be improper to infer that the statement he had made to Mwisepi had been an admission, and that it was unfortunate to read anything sinister into it.
He said he had merely tried to test Mwisepi's credibility, by pointing out to him that he had told the court that he had found the Samboma group armed, while he had said in a statement to the Police that he had found four of them unarmed.
In his ruling, Judge Hoff stated that he doubted whether Samukange's statement amounted to an irregularity as Chanda had indicated.
The Judge said it was an issue that could be explored in cross-examination and argument at the end of the trial, adding that he was not expressing any opinion on whether the statement amounted to an admission or not.
Mwisepi is set to return to the witness stand today to face a fourth day of cross-examination.
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