Judge orders internet access for detained Fishrot accused

Ricardo Gustavo

The 10 men facing charges in the Fishrot fishing quotas fraud, corruption and racketeering case must be allowed access to the internet in Windhoek Correctional Facility, where they are being held in custody, the judge presiding over their trial has ordered.

In an order issued on Tuesday, acting judge Moses Chinhengo directed that the state should facilitate a request by the accused who want to undertake research on their own as part of their preparation for their trial.

Chinhengo also ordered that the accused must be allowed to access Wi-Fi provided by the prison authorities, and if Wi-Fi facilities are not available, they should be allowed internet access by using their own mobile internet dongle, during hours permitted by the prison authorities.

The order was given after the first accused in the matter, Ricardo Gustavo, told the judge nearly two weeks ago and again on Tuesday that he needs to have access to a computer and the internet for research to prepare his defence to the charges he is facing.

Gustavo, who is without legal representation after he was not able to continue paying his former defence lawyer, Trevor Brockerhoff, for his services, said during court proceedings on Tuesday that the prison authorities have informed him he would be allowed to use his own laptop in prison, but may only use it in a designated place and during limited hours.

He wants to have access to his laptop at all hours, also while being locked up in his cell for some 16 hours during late afternoons and through the night, so that he can use his time to do research in preparation for his trial, Gustavo said.

Gustavo, who was arrested near the end of November 2019, was released on bail in an amount of N$800 000 in December 2021.

A year later, though, the Supreme Court overturned the judgement in which he was granted bail, and he has been held in custody since then.

On this turn of events, Gustavo commented during a pretrial hearing nearly two weeks ago: “Anticipatory punishment now forms part of the judicial arsenal.”

During court proceedings on Tuesday, one of the other accused in the matter, former attorney general and justice minister Sacky Shanghala also expressed his disdain for the Supreme Court judgement in which the decision to grant Gustavo bail was set aside.

The Supreme Court’s judgement was “one of the most excruciating of cases” and created “retrogressive jurisprudence”, Shanghala charged.

Gustavo, Shanghala and two of their co-accused, James Hatuikulipi and Pius Mwatelulo, also asked the judge to now order their release, indicating that this would enable them to have access to proper facilities to prepare for their trial.

ON HOLD

Plea proceedings in the 10 men’s trial, which began in the High Court at Windhoek Correctional Facility on Tuesday when deputy prosecutor general Ed Marondedze started to read out the state’s voluminous indictment to the accused and the court, did not continue yesterday, due to the absence of two of the lawyers representing accused persons in the matter.

Defence lawyer Florian Beukes, who is representing former minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernhard Esau, was booked off for yesterday and today due to illness, Chinhengo was informed.

Fellow defence lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji, who is representing Esau’s son-in-law Tamson Hatuikulipi and Nigel van Wyk, was not in Windhoek, as in his view the matter was set down on the court’s roll only for Tuesday, Chinhengo was also told.

After Marondedze did not oppose a request for a postponement due to Beukes’ illness, and Esau, Tamson Hatuikulipi and Van Wyk told the court they did not want proceedings to continue without their lawyers being present, Chinhengo postponed plea proceedings in the matter to tomorrow.

All of the 10 accused are being held in custody.

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