Empty terrorism charges ‘defective’, lawyer says

The six charges under Namibia’s tough anti-terrorism law that are faced by a Grootfontein resident accused of providing support to a radical Islamist organisation are defective, a defence lawyer argued in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

It is “shocking” that, nearly three months after the arrest of his client Jonas Hangula, the charges on which Hangula has appeared in court still do not contain any particulars informing him exactly what crimes he is accused of committing, defence lawyer Wihan Brand said to magistrate Dawid Mukuyu during Hangula’s second court appearance following his arrest.

Brand said the charges do not contain any allegations disclosing an offence that Hangula (30) is accused of having committed.

While the charges are devoid of particulars, Hangula’s case should be struck from the court roll or the state should withdraw the charges and summon Hangula to return to court once the charges have been properly drawn up, Brand suggested.

Public prosecutor Rowan van Wyk responded to Brand’s remarks by telling the magistrate he had been informed that Hangula’s case is extremely serious, and that it is alleged Hangula and other parties planned to take over Namibia.

Van Wyk added that the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alerted the Namibian authorities about the activities in which Hangula is alleged to have been involved.

If Hangula wants to apply to be granted bail, the full charges will be provided to him before a bail hearing takes place, Van Wyk added.

Mukuyu said he agreed with Brand that the charges are not complete, but in the interest of justice he decided to grant the state a postponement until 1 December, with further investigations to be carried out in the meantime.

Hangula is the first person known to have been charged under Namibia’s Prevention and Combating of Terrorist and Proliferation Activities Act of 2014, which came into operation at the start of July 2014.

The charges reflected in the case record at this stage are:

– one count of membership of an organisation involved in terrorist or proliferation activities,

– two charges of terrorism and funding of terrorist activities,

– two counts of recruitment of persons to become members of a terrorist organisation or to participate in terrorism or proliferation activities, and

– one charge of arranging for the retention or control of funds belonging to or controlled by persons involved in terrorist or proliferation activities.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation of the matter have informed The Namibian that Hangula is accused of having provided support to and attempting to recruit people to become members of the radical organisation Islamic State in Iraq.

The United Nations Security Council has placed the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as Da’esh, under counter-terrorism sanctions.

Under the Prevention and Combating of Terrorist and Proliferation Activities Act, a person who engages in any terrorist activity in or outside Namibia, whether directly or indirectly, commits the offence of terrorism and is liable to be sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted.

The act further states that a person who knowingly agrees to recruit, or recruits, someone to become a member of an organisation designated by the UN Security Council as being subject to UN sanctions, commits an offence for which they can be sentenced to a period of imprisonment up to 30 years.

A person who is a member of or attempts to be a member of an organisation involved in any terrorist or proliferation activity commits an offence in terms of the act as well, for which they are liable to be sentenced to imprisonment not exceeding 30 years.

Hangula has been held in custody since his arrest on 21 June.

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