Supreme Court hears treason trial appealBy: WERNER MENGES
THE Supreme Court has reserved its judgement on the appeal by the ten men convicted and sentenced to heavy prison terms in the second Caprivi high treason trial nearly five years ago.
The ten men, who stood trial before the late Acting Judge John Manyarara in the High Court in Windhoek, are appealing against their convictions and the long jail terms which they were sentenced to on August 8 2007.
They were found guilty of high treason, while two of their co-accused were acquitted, after a difficult and often stormy trial of which, a substantial part took place in their absence.
The twelve men were accused of having taken part in a conspiracy to secede the Caprivi Region from Namibia through armed means between 1998 and 2003.
On behalf of the ten convicted men, lawyer Norman Tjombe argued before Chief Justice Peter Shivute, Judge of Appeal Gerhard Maritz and Acting Judge of Appeal Johan Strydom on Friday last week that the Supreme Court should find that irregularities have affected the trial, and that these were so serious that the entire proceedings in the trial should be set aside. That would leave the Prosecutor General with the task to decide whether to prosecute them afresh or not, Tjombe said.
Deputy Prosecutor General Danie Small, representing the State, argued that, in the face of disruptive behaviour and intransigence on the part of the 12 accused who were on trial before Judge Manyarara, every possible effort had been made to ensure that they received a fair trial.
“You can only be so fair to somebody who isn’t really interested in what you are trying to do,” Small remarked.
He argued that Judge Manyarara had tried to make the trial as fair as possible, only to have his attempts thrown back in his face.
“One cannot allow accused persons to actually make a trial impossible through their obstructive attitude,” he said.
The twelve accused were not present in court for much of their trial, after they had repeatedly told the judge that they considered themselves to be Caprivians and not Namibians, that they did not acknowledge the jurisdiction of a Namibian court, and after they had disrupted proceedings on several occasions by shouting political slogans and singing in court.
Tjombe argued that Judge Manyarara should have recused himself from the trial after he had made adverse findings about the credibility of the men in a ruling in which he rejected their initial plea, which was that the court did not have jurisdiction over them because they had allegedly been abducted from neighbouring countries to be arrested and charged in Namibia.
He also argued that the trial could not have proceeded in their absence, and that they had not received a fair trial because the trial record was not provided to them on a daily basis to enable them to decide whether they wanted to cross-examine specific State witnesses or not.
Small reminded the appeal judges that repeated attempts had been made to deliver the trial record to the accused men, but that they refused to accept it.
When they were offered an opportunity to cross-examine State witnesses, they complained that they were not represented by a defence lawyer, and when they were then given an opportunity to try to get legal representation, they informed the court that they were only interested in challenging the jurisdiction of the court, and not in the merits of the trial itself, Small recounted.
“What more could the court have done, with the greatest respect?” Small remarked.
Having been convicted, seven of the men – Progress Kenyoka Munuma, Shine Samulandela Samulandela, Manepelo Manuel Makendano, Alex Sinjabata Mushakwa, Diamond Samuzula Salufu, Boster Mubuyaeta Samuele, and Alex Mafwila Liswani – were sentenced to a 32-year prison term each.
Frederick Isaka Ntambilwa, Hoster Simasiku Ntombo and John Mazila Tembwe, who had spent a longer time in custody than their co-accused, were sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment each.