News and Information

State drops bid on 'nameless' treason witness
February 9, 2005


THE prosecution in the Caprivi high treason trial before the High Court at Grootfontein yesterday backed off from a replay of a fight over a bid to prevent the media from publishing the name of a State witness.

A prosecution application to stop the media from revealing the identity of the person who was at that stage supposed to be the State's third witness took up four days of court proceedings before Judge Elton Hoff in October last year.

It ended with the Judge ordering that the witness could not be named in media reports because of fears on the witness's part that his safety might be in danger if he was known to have testified in the trial.

Yesterday, as State counsel Taswald July called the fourth prosecution witness to testify, the prospect of once again going through that sort of contest was raised again.

It was only after all nine defence lawyers had voiced their opposition to another application to have a witness's identity protected that July backed off.

He told the Judge after the court's lunchtime adjournment that he would no longer ask for a court order to this effect.

By that time July had already indicated to the Judge that the reason for the planned application was that the witness was set to be a State witness in the second Caprivi high treason trial, which is scheduled to be heard in the High Court in Windhoek from March.

That motivation would not do, was the response of one of the defence lawyers, Greyson Nyoni, who told the Judge that from his understanding of the law, an order to prevent the publication of a witness's name would be given only if the witness's security was at stake.

One of Nyoni's colleagues, Christopher Dube, also objected that protecting a witness's identity could in fact turn out to be an inducement to the witness to misrepresent facts to the court without fear that it would be detected outside the courtroom.

Defence counsel Patrick Kauta used Judge Hoff's own words to motivate his opposition to July's intended application.

Judge Hoff had stated, when he ruled on October 15 last year on the prosecution's previous application for the protection of a witness's identity, that such an order had to be a matter of necessity, and not convenience, Kauta reminded the court.

The fourth State witness turned out to be a former South West Africa Territory Force (SWATF) member, Michael Maswabi Nuwe.

He is yet another possible accomplice of the 120 men on trial.

As with the previous two prosecution witnesses, the Judge was also asked to formally warn Nuwe in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act that he might have to give answers that would incriminate him on all 278 charges against the 120 - including counts of high treason, sedition, murder and attempted murder.

Nuwe was warned that he was obliged to answer all questions put to him, although his answers could incriminate him, and that the court would not prosecute him if he is found to have answered all questions frankly and honestly.

The 43-year-old Nuwe is scheduled to return to the witness stand today.


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