News and Information

Split in ranks of treason accused
January 26, 2005

THE repeatedly delayed trial of 120 men accused of involvement in a plot to secede the Caprivi Region from the rest of Namibia once again failed to continue in the High Court at Grootfontein yesterday.

Division in the ranks of the 120 suspects on trial before Judge Elton Hoff is to blame for this latest delay in the continuation of their trial.

With it, there is a possibility that some of the nine defence lawyers involved in the trial may withdraw from the case because of conflicts of interest between their clients.

That in turn raises the spectre that yet another lengthy postponement may be forced upon the already stuttering, delay-afflicted trial so that replacement defence lawyers can be appointed and can acquaint themselves with the case before it would be able to continue.

Defence counsel Jonathan Samukange informed Judge Hoff yesterday that the defence was faced with a predicament, in that some of the defence team members have clients who want them to raise a new challenge to the High Court's jurisdiction to try them, while their other clients want the trial to continue without further intervening applications.

With six of the defence lawyers - Samukange, Greyson Nyoni, Jorge Neves, Hennie Krueger, Victor Kachaka and Christopher Dube - finding themselves in this position, the lawyers have been given until Tuesday next week to try to resolve the conflict between their clients.

In the meantime they are set to discuss the latest surprise that could see the trial getting bogged down once again with the Director of Legal Aid, who instructed the the defence team to represent the 120.

The court has not been informed of the exact nature of the possible jurisdiction challenge.

Defence team members who were contacted yesterday declined to reveal what the challenge may be about before they had had a chance to discuss the issue with the Legal Aid Director.

However, other sources close to the case indicated that it might be about an argument that the Caprivi Region is not in actual fact legally a part of Namibia.

The result would be that the region's inhabitants did not owe allegiance to the Namibian state and that the high treason suspects could not be prosecuted for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to take up arms to establish an independent state in the region.

Samukange told The Namibian from Grootfontein that he had not asked his clients about the details of the jurisdictional point that they now want to be raised, since that may already place him in such a position of conflict that it may force him to withdraw from the trial.

Not only is there a split of opinion between the accused who want to raise the jurisdiction issue - they numbered 15 yesterday - and their 105 co-accused who want the trial to proceed now, but the 15 and their lawyers are also not seeing eye-to-eye on the issue, it appears.

The defence team is, like the majority of the accused before court, not in agreement with the ones who want to challenge the court's jurisdiction, Samukange said: "We are not with them. We are not with the clients on that issue."


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