High Court Judge Elton Hoff started delivering judgment yesterday in the longest-running trial in Namibian legal history – the infamous treason trial.
Because of the voluminous records the trial produced judgment in the matter had been postponed several times to yesterday. Before he started delivering his judgment, Judge Hoff told the gathering of journalists and the 65 accused currently in the dock and their lawyers in the presence of a strong police contingent that he would deliver the judgment during normal court hours, meaning from 09h00 until 16h00 in the afternoon, with a lunch-break in between.
Only 65 of the original 122 accused remain in the dock as Judge Hoff earlier discharged 43 suspects after the State had closed its case and the defense applied for a Rule 174 discharge.
Judge Hoff found that there is enough evidence against the 65 currently in the dock, including former Member of Parliament Geoffrey Mwilima, for them to answer to the charges. The accused initially faced 278 charges and 379 State witnesses testified on the charges, including high treason, nine counts of murder and 240 counts of attempted murder.
Judge Hoff yesterday went through the evidence presented by the State, including minutes of clandestine meetings held in the then Caprivi – now Zambezi – Region with the apparent aim of overthrowing the government of Namibia, before he touched on the issue of members of the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) fleeing to Botswana allegedly to receive military training, as well as to procure weapons to wage war.
Starting with lawyer Patrick Kauta’s clients, Judge Hoff read his very concise judgment, including witness testimonies and the versions of the accused.
At the time of writing the judge had dealt with five of Kauta’s clients, namely Bollen Mwilima Mwilima, Alfred Siyata Lupalezwi, Leonard Mutongo Ntelamo, Charles Nyambe Mainga and Kabende Victor Makando.
The charges against them stem from an alleged failed attempt to secede the then Caprivi region from Namibia. Eight people died in an attack reportedly launched by CLA on government installations in Katima Mulilo on August 2, 1999.
The local police station, military base, field force base, border posts and the NBC offices were attacked and the State alleges that the attacks were carried out with the aim of using violence to take over the region.
All of the accused denied guilt at the start of their trial in August 2004 before a specially-constituted High Court in Grootfontein. After Judge Hoff ordered that the 65 accused must answer the charges against them in his Rule 174 ruling, 31 of the accused opted to testify in their own defence while 34 chose to remain silent.
Judge Hoff indicated prior to the adjournment yesterday that he would deal with the case against the only white person among the accused, Norman Christopher John Justus, today.
The treason-accused have been in custody for the past sixteen years. The long-running trial has clearly taken a heavy toll on the accused, with 22 having died while awaiting trial.
The remaining accused are represented by Kauta, George Neves, Clive Kavendji, Profysen Muluti, Jonathan Samukange, Victor Kachaka, Percy McNally and Ilse Aggenbach. State Advocate Taswald July is prosecuting.