News and Information

D-Day for Caprivi treason case - again
August 9, 2004

TODAY is set to be another red-letter day for the delay-cursed Caprivi high treason case.

The 120 suspects accused of involvement in an alleged plot to secede the Caprivi Region will this morning return to the High Court in Grootfontein for what might - or might not - be the proper start of their trial.

Their appearance today comes five years and a week after the first arrests in the wake of armed attacks at Katima Mulilo on August 2 1999 marked the start of the Caprivi high treason case.

It also takes place a little over nine months after the initial starting date of the trial instead resulted in a challenge to the jurisdiction of the High Court being raised by 13 of the accused.

In the nine months since then, that challenge has been upheld in the High Court, taken on appeal, and eventually dismissed in the Supreme Court almost three weeks ago.

The State is ready to start presenting the evidence of its first witness today, Deputy Prosecutor General Herman January, who is leading the prosecution team, said on Friday.

But that will, once again, depend on the defence lawyers.

January said he had not been notified of any further applications that the defence might plan to bring on the merits of the case.

However, it was indicated by one of the defence lawyers, Jorge Neves, yesterday, that the possibility of further applications being brought on behalf of the accused would be subject to consultations between the suspects and their defence counsel only today.

Neves said the defence was also ready to start with the trial, with the defence lawyers in the case having already consulted with their clients in that respect.

However, he added, some new instructions had also been received from the accused.

These are set to be sorted out in further consultations only today.

While he declined to reveal whether the defence would bring another pre-trial application today, there are indications that this might indeed happen.

Another defence team member, Percy McNally, however said yesterday that as far as he was concerned the trial would start as scheduled today with the testimony of the State's first witness.

"We are ready for them.

It's about time that we hear what they have against us," he said.

According to January, the prosecution's plan is to let the 13 who raised the jurisdiction challenge at the end of October last year plead today to the 278 charges they and their co-accused face.

The 13's 107 co-accused pleaded not guilty to all counts on March 15, when the case was postponed to allow the appeal process over the jurisdiction challenge of the 13 to run its course.

January said the first witness would be Detective Warrant Officer Daniel Mouton, who should provide Judge Elton Hoff with a geographical overview of the case.

His evidence will mainly be about maps of the Caprivi Region and photo albums that were compiled to show where armed separatists attacked targets on August 2 1999, where they had assembled before those attacks, where they had established training bases, and where they had crossed and recrossed Namibia's borders before and after the attacks, January explained.

All of the 120 are in custody.

Most of them have been behind bars and trial-awaiting for five years.


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