Treason charge awaits terrorism accused

Jona Hangula

A Grootfontein resident arrested on charges under Namibia’s 2014 anti-terrorism law will also be charged with high treason, a prosecutor said in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Jona Hangula (31) is charged with a transnational offence linked to a number of foreign countries and with the investigation of his case still continuing, the state will also charge him with high treason at a later juncture, public prosecutor Bernadine Bertolini informed magistrate Dawid Mukuyu during Hangula’s third appearance in court following his arrest in June this year.

“This is a matter of national security. Investigations are at a very sensitive stage at this juncture,” Bertolini said.

She made these remarks after telling the magistrate that the state was requesting a further postponement of the case, to have more investigations carried out.

Mukuyu granted a postponement until 30 April after saying he wants the state to speed up its investigation.

An arrest should be preceded by an investigation and should not be carried out so that an investigation can be done only thereafter, Mukuyu said.

Hangula will in the meantime be applying to be granted bail, with a bail hearing scheduled to start in the Windhoek Regional Court on 19 February, defence lawyer Wihan Brand informed the magistrate during the court proceedings.

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.

Brand noted on Friday that nearly six months after Hangula’s arrest, the charges on which he has appeared in court and is being held in custody still do not contain any particulars, such as the alleged terrorist organisation he is accused of being a member of and for which he allegedly provided funding.

Brand said without particulars the charges are empty and defective.

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

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

Brand also argued that the repeated postponements of Hangula’s case for further investigations to be carried out are infringing on Hangula’s constitutional rights, including the right to a fair trial.

No progress appears to have been made with the case from Hangula’s arrest until now, said Brand, who objected to another postponement.

He suggested that the case should instead be struck off the court’s roll and Hangula should be released and that the matter can later be placed back on the roll when the investigation has been done and the state is ready to proceed.

According to Hangula, he was aware before his arrest that he was under investigation, and while he knew that, he made no attempt to flee to evade arrest, Brand said as well.

The investigations still being carried out include a probe by the Namibia Revenue Agency (Namra) into five companies, of which one received some N$35 million connected to the charges against Hangula, Bertolini also said.

Hangula was arrested on 21 June, and has been held in custody since then.

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