News and Information

Crash deals blow to Caprivi trial
March 30, 2005


THE fatal car accident that on Monday claimed the life of a member of the prosecution team working on the Caprivi high treason case has necessitated a seven-week postponement of the trial.

Prosecutor Corelie Barnard (30) died in the accident on the main road between Otjiwarongo and Otavi on Monday afternoon.

Her two colleagues, Deputy Prosecutor General Herman January and Taswald July, are both in a critical condition in hospital in Windhoek.

Yesterday it was up to Tsumeb-based prosecutor Zenobia Barry to stand in on behalf of the State in the High Court at Grootfontein and ask for an adjournment of the trial until May 17.

The atmosphere in the court is reported to have been subdued after defence lawyers and the 120 men on trial before Judge Elton Hoff were informed of the accident, which has thrown the already frequently troubled trial into uncertainty once again.

Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa said yesterday that she would have to put a new team of prosecutors onto the high treason case.

"It's a blow....And we have a shortage of manpower," she remarked.

She said she had been informed that the two injured prosecutors might take quite some time to recover, which may mean that they would not be ready to return to duty when the case is set to return to court on May 17.

"I hope so," was her answer when she was asked whether she expected that the replacement prosecution team would be able to continue with the trial come May 17.

A new prosecution team would face a daunting task in preparing for the continuation of the trial.

The typed record of the proceedings in the trial so far runs to almost 3 900 pages.

A new prosecution team would have to familiarise themselves with that record, as well as with a voluminous Police docket setting out the case against the 120 accused men, and also with the records of previous court proceedings in the case, such as bail applications dating back as far as August 1999.

This means the new team of prosecutors would have to do in seven weeks what had taken the team of January, July and Barnard almost two years to do.

January, July and Barnard had been working on the high treason case since May 2003.

The trio have been based at Grootfontein since late in October 2003, when the first stage of the trial started with a challenge to the High Court's jurisdiction over 13 of the high treason suspects, who claimed to have been abducted from Zambia or Botswana to be put on trial in Namibia.

They travelled back to Windhoek most weekends, and this long-distance commute took a terrible toll on Monday.

January and July were still in a serious condition in hospitals in Windhoek yesterday.

They both suffered bone fractures in the accident.

January's condition was reported to be critical.

The Police have still not released the names of the other people who were killed in the accident, which apparently happened when an oncoming vehicle that was overtaking another car crashed head-on into Barnard's car.

The death toll from the accident had risen to six by yesterday.

According to a Police spokesperson, Warrant Officer James Matengu, four occupants of the car that collided with the prosecutors' vehicle died at the scene, while the fifth occupant died in hospital at Otjiwarongo.


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