News and Information

Treason witnesses kept 'like prisoners'
August 30, 2006
Treason witnesses kept 'like prisoners'


A GROUP of men from the Caprivi Region - State witnesses in the Caprivi high treason trial - have been quietly kept at two guesthouses in Windhoek for four months.

They are not allowed to move around freely and are guarded by Police officers.

Their relatives have complained to a local human rights body because they are allegedly not allowed to see them.

The accommodation costs of the 14 men, who have been in the capital since May, are being paid for by the Ministry of Justice, The Namibian has reliably learnt.

When The Namibian arrived at one of the two guesthouses yesterday afternoon, the receptionist barred the reporter from speaking to any of the 13 men staying there.

Two Police officers in civilian clothes came closer and said: "No talking to them".

They would not disclose their ranks or their names.

The Namibian managed to speak to one of the 13 and asked him whether he was free to move around and leave the guesthouse.

He replied that he and the others could not do that; the Police were constantly around and they could only go to town for one hour a week if accompanied by the Police.

"Our relatives cannot visit us, we feel like prisoners," the man told The Namibian.

The 14th State witness is staying at a separate guesthouse.

The names of the State witnesses may not be published.

The receptionist then stopped the conversation and told the reporter in no uncertain terms that any contact with the Caprivians was totally forbidden.

Asked on whose authority she was speaking, the young woman dialled a phone number and then handed the receiver to the reporter.

State Prosecutor Herman January was on the line.

"The men are State witnesses and not prisoners and the fact that they are residing in the two guesthouses is for their own protection and security," January said.

"If their relatives and wives want to visit them, the Police contact them and then they can visit," the State Prosecutor said.

Asked to comment on the allegation that the men felt like prisoners, January repeated that the security measures were for their own protection.

When this newspaper telephoned the 14th State witness, the man said he had been in Windhoek since the end of April and had not seen his wife or children since then.

The Police had refused his sister access to him and he was kept under constant surveillance, he claimed.

"Please help us, my brother is sick," his sister wrote to the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) last Friday.

"The Police did not take him to the hospital when he fell sick, only after the Prosecutor was contacted, he told the Police to take him," the sister wrote.

"But they did not respond.

The sickness went (so far) that he collapsed," the woman claimed in her letter.

According to her, the owner of the guesthouse where her brother was being kept then bought medication for her brother and called on the Police to finally take him to hospital, which they did.

The sister further informed the NSHR that her brother had told her on the phone he was still sick and that she feared he would not be taken care of properly.

NSHR Executive Director Phil ya Nangoloh said he was shocked that the 14 men were kept under "house arrest for over four months".

Ya Nangoloh called on Government to immediately release the man.

"He is virtually in custody without a charge or a trial.

What kind of a country are we living in?" Ya Nangoloh commented.


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