Closed-door trial for man on child-rape charges

Johann Maree

The trial of a Windhoek resident accused of sexually abusing underage boys and making child pornography with them will be taking place behind closed doors.

This is in terms of an order made by judge Philanda Christiaan in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Christiaan made the order after state advocate Palmer Kumalo applied to have the trial of Johann Maree (52), who on Monday denied guilt on 74 charges, held in camera.

Kumalo said his application was based on a section of the Criminal Procedure Act that allows proceedings in a criminal trial involving charges about alleged sexual or indecent acts to not take place in open court, and an article of the Constitution that states the public and the media may be excluded from any part of a trial for reasons of morals.

It would be in the interest of justice and for the protection of the minors involved in the matter for the trial to proceed behind closed doors, Kumalo also said.

Christiaans ordered as well that the identities of witnesses in the trial may not be revealed publicly.

Maree is being prosecuted on 74 charges, including 24 counts of rape, 10 counts of using a child to create pornography, 18 counts of child trafficking, five charges of committing an indecent act with a child under the age of 16 years, 13 counts of encouraging or allowing a child under the age of 16 to drink liquor and a charge of money laundering.

The charges involve 15 underage boys. The state is alleging that 13 of the boys were raped or indecently assaulted by Maree during the period from 2014 to April 2020 and that he also used 10 of the boys to make pornographic material.

Maree, who was self-employed as a photographer and videographer, allegedly sold the pornographic material to buyers outside Namibia, who paid him through a money transfer service.

According to the state, Maree received payments totalling about N$77 000 from nine buyers, based in the United States, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Australia, from December 2015 to February 2020.

He was arrested and charged at the end of April 2020, following an investigation prompted by a request from the police in The Netherlands for assistance from the Namibian Police.

Maree has been held in custody since his arrest.

He went through a period of psychiatric observation near the end of 2022, after a defence lawyer who represented him at the time informed the court that Maree was claiming he had a mental defect when the crimes he is accused of were allegedly committed and that he had no recollection of the incidents in which the state alleges he was involved.

After the observation period, a psychiatrist reported to the court last year that Maree is mentally fit to stand trial and was mentally stable and capable of understanding the wrongfulness of his alleged actions at the time the offences he is accused of were allegedly committed.

The names of 42 state witnesses who could be called to testify during the trial have been provided to Maree and the court.

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