India to appeal release of Namibian drug accused

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Windhoek

The State in India plans to lodge an appeal next month against the acquittal of Lahia Junias – a Namibian woman who has been in jail for more than five years for alleged illegal possession of heroin. Junias was acquitted after an Indian court found that there were discrepancies in the statements of prosecution witnesses and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials.

The State plans to contest the ruling by lodging a formal appeal on July 10, according to reports.
Junias is currently stranded because she no longer has valid travelling documents and it is unlikely she would be granted the right to leave that country pending the ruling of the planned appeal.
New Era understands that officials of the Namibian mission in New Dehli are currently accommodating Junias.

The court also stated in its ruling that key prosecution witnesses lied to the court about the facts of the case.
Junias was arrested on March 30, 2009, along with Sampson Chukwudi, a Nigerian man – who is believed to be her boyfriend.
Media in India reported at the time that the duo was arrested after the DRI was tipped off that a huge consignment of heroin was being transported into the capital New Delhi on board a bus from Ludhiana, a city situated over 300 kilometres north of the capital.
An Indian law enforcement agency reportedly intercepted the bus and arrested Junias and her Nigerian companion. They were eventually charged for possession of 34kg of heroin, the media reported. The Namibian High Commission in India has relentlessly tried to secure the release of Junias on the basis that there was no evidence to back the State’s claims against her.

New Era has seen a letter sent to the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation Permanent Secretary, Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, in which Namibia’s High Commissioner to India Pius Dunaiski said Junias’s human rights may have been violated.
When contacted for comment yesterday, Dunaiski was hesitant to comment on the matter, citing its sensitivity.

“We’ve been engaging the government of India on the matter. We hope for an amicable end to it,” he said.
But letters seen by New Era reveal the extent to which the Namibian mission has gone in trying to secure Junias’s freedom.
“The mission feels that Ms Junias should have recourse to some kind of legal action against the DRI for gross dishonesty and incompetence. We further feel that her human rights may have been violated due to the fact that she spent such a long time in prison without being found guilty of any offence within a reasonable period of time,” Dunaiski stated in one of those letters, dated June 1, 2015.

Dunaiski has requested the ministry to take up the matter with the Attorney General to ascertain whether the Namibian government may address the judgment and the facts of this with its Indian counterpart.

He said the Indian immigration authorities would either deport Junias or she would be freed to return (to Namibia) on her own accord. “Should Ms Junias have recourse to lodge a legal counter-claim against the Indian authorities, she would not have the ability to proceed with such a litigation, as she has no financial means of doing so,” said the high commissioner in the letter.
Attorney General Sacky Shanghala and Ashipala-Musavyi yesterday said they have not seen the letter.

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