State closes treason case


Judge Elton Hoff


THE prosecution’s case in the main Caprivi high treason trial was closed in the High Court at Windhoek Central Prison yesterday.



A major milestone in the marathon trial, which is the longest trial in Namibia’s history, was passed yesterday morning when Deputy Prosecutor General Taswald July announced, with no fanfare or prior warning: “At this stage the State wishes to inform the court, counsel and the accused that this concludes the State’s case.”
After the court had adjourned a few minutes later, the announcement was cheered by the men in the dock in the courtroom.
The prosecution closed its case after the testimony of its 379th witness in the main part of the trial, Police Detective Warrant Officer Eimo Popyeinawa, was concluded yesterday morning.
The end of the trial, of which the first stage started in the High Court at Grootfontein in late October 2003, is still not in sight, though.
On behalf of the defence team, defence counsel Jonathan Samukange informed Judge Elton Hoff that the defence would now apply for the discharge of the accused after the closing of the State’s case.
Judge Hoff would then have to give a ruling on that application. If he decides not to acquit the 112 remaining accused persons at that stage of the trial, the accused would have to present the case in their defence to the court, before a final verdict would be given.
The 112 men remaining on trial before Judge Hoff are being prosecuted on a total of 278 charges – including a count of high treason, nine counts of murder and 240 charges of attempted murder – in connection with an alleged conspiracy to secede the Caprivi Region from Namibia between January 1992 and December 2002.
Most of the accused have been in custody for more than twelve years already. Nineteen of the people who had been charged in the matter have died in custody so far.
The hearing of oral arguments on the defence’s discharge application is scheduled to start on September 3. In the meantime, the defence and the prosecution will have to prepare written arguments and file these with the court.
In doing that, testimony delivered by the 379 prosecution witnesses who have testified in the main part of the trial since August 2004 would have to be revisited and considered. Revisiting all of the testimony heard during the trial would in itself be a mammoth task, with the record of proceedings in the trial running over some 35 000 typewritten pages at this stage.
“It’s not going to be a walk in the park,” Samukange remarked about the preparations to be done for the arguments on the defence’s discharge bid when he addressed Judge Hoff yesterday.
In terms of the Criminal Procedure Act an accused person is entitled to be discharged at the end of the prosecution’s case in a trial if there is no evidence before the court that the accused committed the offences he is charged with.
Namibia’s courts have interpreted “no evidence” as being no evidence upon which a reasonable court, acting carefully, may convict the accused person.
The hearing of testimony in the trial started on August 23 2004 when July – who also announced the end of the prosecution’s case yesterday – told the court in an opening address that the prosecution would endeavour to prove that the armed rebellion which took place in the Caprivi Region on August 2 1999 was premeditated with the aim of overthrowing the legitimate government of Namibia in that region.
“The State will show that the armed secession in the Caprivi Region was planned by the political leadership of the United Democratic Party, executed by the soldiers of the Caprivi Liberation Army, and supported by those who had similar aims and objectives of seceding Caprivi from the rest of Namibia by military means,” July said at that time.
He also told the court: “The State will lead evidence during this trial that will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that each of the accused, having acted individually and collectively, committed criminal acts against a sovereign state, the Republic of Namibia, under the pretext of seeking political emancipation from Namibia. This objective was to have been achieved through the use of violence.”
Whether the prosecution has achieved what it set out to prove almost seven and a half years ago will be at the heart of the arguments to be heard from September 3