News and Information

'Hostile witnesses' at root of treason trial media gag bid
October 11, 2004


THE situation in the Caprivi Region cannot be classified as stable, the leader of the Namibian Police team investigating the Caprivi high treason case testified in the High Court at Grootfontein on Friday.

That evidence was given by Deputy Commissioner Abraham Maasdorp, who has led the Police's high treason investigation unit for the past five years.

He was called to the witness stand to give evidence in support of an application to prohibit the media from revealing the identity of the State's third witness.

With the third witness seemingly in a similar situation to other prosecution witnesses, it is expected that the prosecution's application may only be the first of a number of similar requests to the court.

Judge Elton Hoff is scheduled to hear defence counsel Percy McNally's argument on the application when the trial continues tomorrow.

McNally is acting on behalf of the nine-member defence team in opposing the prosecution's application.

It took until McNally's last question on Friday before Maasdorp acknowledged that the application had actually been brought out of concern for the State, and not for the witness himself.

By that stage Maasdorp had told the court that the situation in the Caprivi Region "cannot be classified as stable".

He said some witnesses had become so hostile that they were refusing to be interviewed by the Police.

Witnesses claimed that they were being intimidated and accused of being traitors, just because they were to testify in the treason trial, he said.

The witness at the centre of the application has also reported that he was "to some extent being intimidated" because of his relationship with the Police, Maasdorp testified.

He told the court that because of this, the Police had removed the witness from the Caprivi Region about four weeks ago.

However, in the absence of an actual witness protection programme in Namibia, it was difficult for the Police to offer their witnesses adequate protection, Maasdorp added.

The witness himself told the court on Friday that he wanted his name to be kept out of the media because he did not want people from his home area to know about his testimony in the trial.

Relatives of the 120 accused would harass his family members, asking why they had allowed him to testify, he said.

From his testimony it appears that there is still sympathy not only for the treason suspects now on trial, but also for the idea of seceding the Caprivi Region.

This issue also appears to be dividing families into opposing camps.

He did not want to be resented or ostracised by his own family as a result of his testimony, the witness told the court under cross-examination from McNally.

It would be "a stigma on my mind" that he had caused people to be imprisoned through his testimony, he said at one stage.

He added that relatives of the 120 accused looked at him as if he was causing their family members to be incarcerated.

He lamented:"I can come here and testify the truth in court, but those relatives will look at me and say I am lying."


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