News and Information
Caprivi treason trial up and running again
|November 2, 2005
* WERNER MENGES
NAMIBIA'S largest ever criminal trial got back on track in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday.
Seven months after a fatal car accident brought the Caprivi high treason trial to a sudden halt, the trial has resumed.
Proceedings that first began in August last year before Judge Elton Hoff in the High Court at Grootfontein, where that town's Omulunga Community Hall was used as a courtroom, restarted in a newly renovated courtroom located on the grounds of the Windhoek Central Prison yesterday.
The two survivors of the accident that threw the trial off track, Deputy Prosecutors-General Herman January and Taswald July, were both back in court for the resumption of proceedings.
Both spent months in hospital after the accident on March 28, in which the third member of the prosecution team, Corelie Barnard, was killed.
January is still using a wheelchair to get around, and July is getting by with the aid of crutches, but both were back in their positions at the prosecution's desk in the courtroom.
Their team has in the meantime been joined by Deputy Prosecutor-General Danie Small and State advocate Niel Lakay.
The trial restarted with two of the nine defence lawyers telling the court that they will no longer represent one of their remaining clients.
This development adds another two people to the ranks of the 30 men already appearing without legal representation.
Jonathan Samukange explained that he would no longer be able to represent George Liseho because Liseho wants him to pursue a jurisdiction issue which causes a conflict between Liseho's case and those of the other men that Samukange is representing.
Christopher Dube withdrew from representing former Policeman Derick Ndala.
It would appear that, like the rest of the group who have lost their legal representation, Liseho and Ndala want to raise a challenge to the High Court's jurisdiction to try them.
That would be based on an argument that a Namibian court cannot have authority over anyone from the Caprivi Region, because in the view of the now unrepresented men, that region has never actually properly and legally been a part of Namibia.
One of the men who was part of the first group of 15 who parted ways with their legal representatives on February 1, when the lawyers' refusal to pursue the jurisdictional point was first brought to a head, was Martin Tubaundule, who also addressed the court yesterday.
He told the Judge that his group now want to be transferred to the Katima Mulilo Police Station so that they can be closer to relatives who might help them raise money to instruct another lawyer who would take the course that they are insisting on.
Their defence counsel had abandoned them, Tubaundule charged.
He said the lawyers had been intimidated by their "appointing authority" - the Legal Aid Directorate, which had provided all 120 accused men with legal representation - which was why they did not want to bite the hand that feeds them, Tubaundule said.
He told Judge Hoff that the group wants to have political dialogue with Government, since they believe the high treason case was a political matter that had to be discussed and solved on a political level.
Small gave the prosecution's response on Tubaundule's remarks to the court.
The basis of a charge of high treason is that it concerns acts against a state to which a person owes allegiance, Small said.
By raising the sort of argument that Tubaundule and the others in his group appear to want to advance - that the Caprivi Region is not legally part of Namibia - they are in essence playing directly into the hands of the prosecution, Small hinted.
"Anybody bringing such an application is going to prove the State's case for it, and if anybody wants to tender a plea of guilty to any of the charges, they are welcome to it," he said.
The tenth prosecution witness to have testified so far continued yesterday with his testimony that was interrupted by the seven-month break in the trial.
He had been in the witness box at Grootfontein for five days before the trial was postponed.
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