Fishrot accused express prison safety fears

JAIL MOVE … James Hatuikulipi, Sakeus Shanghala and Mike Nghipunya, who are charged in the Fishrot case, during an adjournment yesterday in the Windhoek High Court, where they are trying to reverse a decision to move some of them to a different section of the jail in which they are being held. Photo: Werner Menges

Former National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) chief executive Mike Nghipunya has informed the prison authorities he has fears about his safety if he is held in custody with other inmates at Windhoek Correctional Facility.

This is said in an affidavit by one of Nghipunya’s co-accused in the Fishrot fishing quotas fraud, corruption and racketeering case, James Hatuikulipi, which has been filed at the Windhoek High Court.

Nghipunya has told a prison officer “that whenever he passes through the corridors of the labyrinth that is [Windhoek Correctional Facility], he and others (including myself) almost always get threatened, jeered or taunted by hardened inmates who accuse us of having ‘eaten their fish’, ‘stolen their money’ and some who even threaten to fill our bodily orifices with such fish”, Hatuikulipi says in his sworn statement.

The statement was filed in support of an urgent application in which Hatuikulipi and fellow accused in the Fishrot case are applying for an interim interdict to stop the prison authorities from transferring them from the section of Windhoek Correctional Facility where whey have been held in custody to another part of the prison, where they are detained with more awaiting-trial detainees than in the section where they were kept previously.

Hatuikulipi, Nghipunya, Sakeus Shanghala, Ricardo Gustavo, Pius Mwatelulo, Otneel Shuudifonya and Phillipus Mwapopi are applying for the interdict, after the prison authorities moved Hatuikulipi, Nghipunya, Gustavo, Mwatelulo and Shuudifonya from the prison’s C Section to another unit at the start of May.

Hatuikulipi also said, in another sworn statement filed at the court, that Gustavo, who has serious heart and lung problems, has been hospitalised after being moved to the prison’s Echo Unit, “as a direct consequence of his exposure to the environment” in Echo Unit.

He added that in Echo Unit, he and the other Fishrot accused who were moved out of C Section are sharing a communal cell with people accused of serious crimes like murder and rape.

Hatuikulipi said Echo Unit is notorious for the smuggling of cannabis through unconventional means.

He recounted: “In the past fortnight alone, an inmate was indecently assaulted when contraband was extracted from his rectum. The fumes produced by herbs which were inserted in bodily orifices have a noxious funky whiff which has plagued us all […].”

The prison authorities are opposing the application.

In a statement also filed at the court, Namibian Correctional Service commissioner general Raphael Hamunyela says the Fishrot accused were placed in single cells after the authorities that investigated their case requested that they should be isolated until the investigation of their matter has been concluded.

It was not intended to keep them in that part of the jail indefinitely, and once the investigation of their case was completed it was decided to move some of the accused to a different part of the prison, Hamunyela said.

During a hearing before judge Boas Usiku yesterday, Shanghala argued that his and the other applicants’ rights to a fair trial, to be treated with dignity and to be held in a safe environment are being infringed upon as a result of the decision to move some of them out of the prison’s C Section.

Shanghala said his co-accused that have been moved do not have access to computers and the internet, which they need to prepare for their trial, in Echo Unit.

However, they are allowed to visit C Section, where they have access to computers and the internet, every day, the court was informed.

Shanghala said: We are victims of the situation we find ourselves in. […] So we are saying, judge, please protect our right to a fair trial.”

On behalf of the prison authorities, lawyer Slysken Makando argued that people being held in custody do not have a right to be kept in a specific section of Windhoek Correctional Facility.

Makando also argued that, since Hatuikulipi, Nghipunya, Gustavo, Mwatelulo and Shuudifonya were moved out of C Section, the court cannot issue an interdict to stop an event that has already occurred.

Usiku reserved his judgement, which he said would be delivered on 10 June.

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