News and Information

'Forced testimony' claims in treason trial denied
February 1, 2006


CLAIMS that potential State witnesses in the main Caprivi high treason trial have faced attempts to force them to testify drew strong denials from the prosecution team yesterday.

The National Society for Human Rights claimed in a press release issued on Monday that it had received information that members of the Namibian Police had been trying to force people to give testimony in the long-running trial that is continuing before Judge Elton Hoff in the High Court in Windhoek.

The human rights organisation stated that it had specifically received claims from Kaenda Jona Mukurumui, the 76-year-old headman of Kaenda, a village in the Caprivi Region, that he had "survived numerous coercive attempts to force him to testify" in the trial.

Police officers transported the headman form his village - situated some 50 kilometres southwest of Katima Mulilo - to Windhoek on November 27 last year, the NSHR claimed in the press release.

On the next day, he was taken to the offices of the prosecution team involved in the trial "where a pre-prepared statement was handed over to him for signature," the press release continued.

The headman refused to sign the "self-incriminating document", in which it was stated that Mukurumui had received instructions from alleged secessionist leader Mishake Muyongo to mobilise children to go to Dukwe, the NSHR further claimed.

Several of the 24 witnesses who have so far testified in the trial have told the court that part of a plan to secede the Caprivi Region from Namibia between seven and eight years ago, was that would-be combatants in a secessionist movement led by Muyongo were to leave Namibia to take refuge in Botswana's Dukwe refugee camp.

There they were supposed to receive military training to prepare them for their return to Caprivi for what was supposed to be the start of an armed struggle to secede the region from the rest of Namibia, the court has been told.

According to the NSHR's statement, Mukurumui had also informed the organisation that members of the Namibian Police have been subjecting him to intimidation and other threats during interrogations since 1999.

"At some stages he was told, 'we will torture you if you continue denying your involvement in the alleged plot to secede' the Caprivi Region," the NSHR stated.

Deputy Commissioner Abraham Maasdorp, the head of the Police team that has been investigating the high treason case for the past seven years, brushed off the claims yesterday.

He did not know about any such complaints of intimidation on the part of the Police having been registered with the Police, did not know about any such reports having been made, and was denying the claims, Maasdorp said.

State Advocate Niel Lakay, who is one of the members of the prosecution team, told The Namibian that he had consulted with Mukurumui as a potential witness for the State late last year, but that it was decided in the end not to use the headman as a witness.

Lakay said when he discussed the witness statement that the Police had previously taken down from the headman, Mukurumui denied the correctness of almost the entire statement.

His own name and signature were about the only things on the statement that he was confirming as correct, Lakay said.

Any claim that the prosecution had tried to get Mukurumui to sign a pre-prepared statement was simply not true, he said.

The leader of the prosecution team, Deputy Prosecutor General Herman January, added that when the prosecution assessed the headman as a witness, they concluded that he could turn out to be a hostile witness, and it was decided that he would not be called to testify for the prosecution.

He had been put up in a hotel in Windhoek during his short stay in the city, and the Police thereafter transported him back to his village.

None of the witnesses who have so far testified in the trial have told the court - even when some of the defence lawyers hinted during cross-examination that the witnesses may not have been giving testimony out of their own free will - that they had been forced to testify or were in the witness box as a result of threats from the Police or prosecution.


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