Caprivi Treason Retrial to Start in June

THE second trial of nine men accused of having played a part in a plot to take up arms to secede the former Caprivi Region from Namibia is due to start in the Windhoek High Court in June.

Eight weeks have been allocated on the court roll for the trial of the nine men, the accused were informed during a pre-trial appearance before Judge President Petrus Damaseb yesterday.

Their trial is scheduled to start before the judge president on 16 June, with a first three-week period from then allocated to the trial. A second three-week period on the court roll, from 28 July to 15 August, and a two-week period from 1 to 12 September have also been reserved for the trial.

The nine accused are set to be retried after the Supreme Court in July last year set aside their convictions and the lengthy prison terms to which they were sentenced at the end of their first trial in August 2007.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the men’s appeal against their convictions and sentences after finding that the judge who presided over their trial, the late Acting Judge John Manyarara, should have recused himself from the trial when the accused applied for his recusal after the first phase of the trial.

The court ruled that Judge Manyarara should have recused himself after he had made some findings against the credibility of the accused at the end of the first phase of the trial, in which he dealt with a special plea raised by the 12 accused who initially went on trial before him.

Acting Judge Manyarara however dismissed the application for his recusal and continued with the trial to its end. He eventually acquitted two of the accused and convicted the other 10.

In early August 2007, seven of the convicted men – Progress Kenyoka Munuma, Shine Samulandela Samulandela, Manepelo Manuel Makendano, Alex Sinjabata Mushakwa, Diamond Samuzula Salufu, Boster Mubuyaeta Samuele, and Alex Mafwila Liswani – were sentenced to a 32-year prison term each.

Frederick Isaka Ntambilwa, Hoster Simasiku Ntombo and John Mazila Tembwe, who had spent a longer time in custody than their co-accused, were sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment each.

Liswani died in prison in October last year, while still awaiting the retrial ordered by the Supreme Court in its appeal judgement.

With the retrial, the nine remaining accused are due to face a charge of high treason in which they are accused of having taken part in a conspiracy to secede the Zambezi Region, then still known as the Caprivi Region, from Namibia through armed means between 1998 and 2003.

They will again raise a special plea at the start of their second trial, defence lawyer Norman Tjombe, who is representing the nine accused, said yesterday.

In the special plea raised by the accused before Judge Manyarara they tried to convince the judge, without success, that the court did not have jurisdiction over them because they had allegedly been unlawfully arrested by the police in Botswana and then handed over to the Namibian Police, which arrested them and had them charged.

Having been arrested on various dates from July 2002 to December 2003, all of the accused have by now been in custody for more than 10 years.

Source : The Namibian