News and Information

Another delay in treason trial
August 27, 2004

TWO and a half days of court proceedings were all it took this week for the inherent difficulties of conducting a trial on the scale of the Caprivi high treason case now in process in the High Court at Grootfontein to manifest themselves.

With the unprecedented number of 120 accused persons on trial before Judge Elton Hoff, it is inevitable that the chances of any one of them not being able to be at court due to illness are also much higher than with any other, more usual sort of trial.

So it is indeed to be next week.

The trial is set to proceed only in a week and a half, after it was adjourned until September 6 on Wednesday.

The break in proceedings is caused by medical treatment that five of the 120 accused before the court are scheduled to receive in Windhoek next week.

Defence counsel Patrick Kauta informed Judge Hoff on Tuesday that he had received a letter from the prison authorities to inform him that the five accused - Geoffrey Mwilima, Barnard Mucheka, Bennet Mutuso, Postrick Mwinga and Francis Mubita - would not be present at court between September 1 and 4 because they have to be in Windhoek for medical treatment.

Kauta still tried to take adopt a pragmatic attitude over this pending absence, asking the court to authorise the absence of the five on those dates, but Judge Hoff opted for a more cautious approach.

He informed the accused and the defence and prosecution counsel in the case on Wednesday that it was vital that an accused person should be present at his own trial proceedings, and since the absence of the five would mean that the court would be able to sit for only two days next week, he had decided to instead postpone the trial until next Monday, September 6.

According to the schedule of sittings that had been drawn up for the high treason trial in the High Court at Grootfontein the court would sit only from Mondays to Thursdays.

It would however be sitting longer than normal court hours to make up for the Fridays' hours that would be lost.

In terms of the Criminal Procedure Act a trial can proceed in the absence of an accused - something which Kauta mentioned on Tuesday, noting that all five were represented by counsel - but Judge Hoff chose to lay down a stricter line.

The court is set to continue hearing evidence on photographs that were taken of alleged crime scenes connected to the high treason case, as well as of scenes where evidence in the case is claimed to have been collected, when it continues.


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