Special Plea Starts Caprivi Treason Retrial

THE retrial of nine men whose convictions on a charge of high treason were set aside by the Supreme Court last year has started with a special plea in which eight of the accused question the High Court’s jurisdiction over themselves.

The eight accused are claiming that they were abducted from Botswana and brought to Namibia by officials from the Namibian Police or the Namibian Defence Force or other agents of the Republic of Namibia, defence lawyer Norman Tjombe informed Acting Judge Petrus Unengu in the High Court at Windhoek Central Prison on Monday, when his nine clients were asked to plead to the charges they are facing.

The eight accused are claiming that Namibian officials abducted them from Botswana in concert with and with the full knowledge of officials of the government of Botswana, Tjombe said. The alleged abductions were done without the consent of the accused and violated the laws of Namibia and Botswana and also international law, the accused claim.

Because the eight accused were unlawfully brought into the jurisdiction of the High Court of Namibia by agents or officials of the State, the court should decline to permit the continuation of their prosecution, they are pleading.

“The accused will accordingly seek an order to be acquitted and be released from the trial and the criminal charges preferred against them,” it is stated in a document in which the special plea is set out.

Two of the accused-Hoster Simasiku Ntombo and John Mazila Tembwe – are claiming that they were abducted from Botswana on 20 September 2002.

One of the accused, Boster Mubuyaeta Samuele, is alleging that he was abducted on 6 December 2002.

Five of the accused-Progress Kenyoka Munuma, Shine Samulandela Samulandela, Manepelo Manuel Makendano, Alex Sinjabata Mushakwa, and Diamond Samunzala Salufu-claim they were abducted from Botswana on 12 December 2003.

Only one of the nine accused who went on trial before Acting Judge Unengu, Frederick Isaka Ntambilwa, has not raised a special plea in which the jurisdiction of the High Court is being questioned. Ntambilwa told Acting Judge Unengu that although he was arrested inside the Zambezi Region – then still known as the Caprivi Region-he, too, had been a refugee in Botswana before that.

The prosecution, represented by State aocate Neville Wamambo, is alleging that the nine men took part in a conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the Namibian government in the former Caprivi Region between September 1998 and December 2003. They are accused of having either been members of an armed secessionist organisation in the region, the Caprivi Liberation Army, or of having associated with the organisation.

The nine men are charged with counts of high treason, sedition, public violence, and the illegal importation and possession of weapons and ammunition.

They were convicted of high treason at the end of July 2007 and each sentenced to long prison terms of either 30 or 32 years a week later, but their convictions and sentences were set aside by the Supreme Court in July last year. The Supreme Court also ordered that they should be retried in the High Court.

As a result of the special plea raised on Monday the court is set to first hear testimony on the circumstances in which the accused were arrested and charged in Namibia.

The accused also challenged the court’s jurisdiction at the start of their first trial before the late Acting Judge John Manyarara in September 2005. Judge Manyarara dismissed their special pleas in late October 2005, and their trial then continued before him. He later also dismissed an application from the accused for his recusal from the trial. The Supreme Court set aside the convictions and sentences of the accused last year after finding that Judge Manyarara should have recused himself from the case after the first phase of the trial, since he had made some aerse findings about the credibility of the accused in his judgement on their jurisdiction challenge.

Source : The Namibian