News and Information

Photo fight keeps Caprivi treason trial stuck in neutral
June 20, 2006


THE main Caprivi high treason trial remains bogged down in a battle over photographs of the 119 men on the trial on charges of having taken part in an alleged conspiracy to secede the Caprivi Region from Namibia.

Proceedings in the trial before Judge Elton Hoff were forced to a standstill on Tuesday last week for the third time in four weeks.

As with the previous two postponements in the trial, the latest delay in the matter came as a result of a request from the defence team involved in the trial, who asked to be given more time to prepare for the cross-examination of the State's latest witness in the case.

The past five weeks have seen only 10 days of proceedings actually taking place in the trial.

Only two days of proceedings were notched up last week, before the matter was again postponed, to continue on Thursday this week.

The latest postponement was requested by defence counsel Patrick Kauta, who told Judge Hoff that he wanted to be given time to consult with an expert before he begins to subject the testimony of witness Daniel Mouton "to vigorous technical examination".

Mouton was the State's first witness in the trial after its start in the High Court at Grootfontein in late August 2004.

He returned to the witness stand for a second round of testimony at the request of the State on Tuesday last week.

This time around, Mouton, who is a Warrant Officer attached to the Namibian Police's Scene of Crime Unit, told the court about photographs that he took back in November 2000 of the suspects who are on trial.

He said he took these photos at Grootfontein Prison at the request of Deputy Commissioner Abraham Maasdorp, who leads the Police unit investigating the high treason case.

The photos were thereafter compiled into two albums, where each photo was also accompanied by the name of the person in the picture and the person's number as an accused in the trial.

The albums that Mouton helped compile have since been used to compile a new album of photos of the accused, but this time with their names and numbers removed.

The prosecution plans to use the new album as an aid to help witnesses when they are asked in court to identify the accused persons that they may have mentioned in their testimony.

It is this intended purpose of the new album that has prompted the defence to put up the vehement fight against evidence about the taking and preparation of these photos that has seen the trial being stalled for much of the past five weeks.

A former member of the Scene of Crime Unit, Bruce Lee Dunn, also took photos of the accused men at Grootfontein Prison in February 2000, Dunn testified on Monday last week.

He told the court that some of the detainees however refused to be photographed.

Dunn also stated that in the photos that he took, each of the detainees had to hold a blackboard on which the detainee's number as an accused person was written.

On the photos that Dunn told the court he had taken, however, the detainees could be seen holding what appears to be a piece of white paper with their numbers as accused persons written on it.

Confronted with that apparent contradiction, Dunn conceded that it would mean that those photos that he had initially said were taken by him, were then not actually taken by him - leaving the prosecution with a new gap where his testimony had been supposed to fill one.


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