After hearing final arguments on the sentences to be imposed on the 30 men convicted of high treason in the Windhoek High Court, Judge Elton Hoff indicated that he would be ready with his sentencing judgment on December 08.
Judge Hoff however first asked Deputy Prosecutor General Taswald July to indicate to him on December 03 which of the exhibits that was used during the trial can be declared forfeited to the State.
Local lawyer Isle Aggenbach was the last of the defence counsels to argue on the sentences to be meted out to her clients.
According to Aggenbach her clients held a subjective belief that the Caprivi was not part of Namibia when they partook in the attacks on the town of Katima Mulilo on August, 02, 1999, which killed several people.
She said they irrevocably believed in the ideal of an independent Caprivi and the court should take it into consideration when deciding on sentence.
According to Aggenbach, her clients were not in favour of an armed uprising as they testified in court, but merely wanted “to know the status of Caprivi”.
“They had a bona fide belief, a reasonable belief in my view,” Aggenbach told the judge.
She said that a 1984 agreement signed between founding president Sam Nujoma and exiled politician Mishake Muyongo that allegedly promised Caprivi self-determination after independence strengthened these beliefs.
According to Aggenbach the court must take these beliefs into consideration when it determines the moral blameworthiness of the accused.
She further argued that during the 90’s the Caprivi people felt they were marginalised by the Namibian government to the extent that some fled to Botswana to escape the alleged continuous harassment by the security forces.
This, she said, and the declaration of a state of emergency in the then Caprivi – now Zambezi Region – enforced the people’s beliefs that they were “oppressed”.
According to Aggenbach, the 16 years her clients have already spent in prison should be an adequate punishment for their “limited involvement” in the failed secession attempt.
July in rebuttal of the arguments forwarded by the various defence counsels warned the judge not to be misled by their eloquent arguments.
“This is a simple matter of high treason and murder,” he said. “The fact that the offences were political in nature do not take away any of the seriousness.”
Human rights activist and head of NamRights, Phil ya Nangoloh, earlier testified that the atrocities committed by the high treason convicts were “justifiable” according to international law.
He called it “political crimes”.
However, July argued, this did not diminish the fact that nine people lost their lives and property were damaged.
July reiterated his call for separate sentences for the separate offences and called for concurrent sentences that would not exceed 25 years for each and everyone convicted.
According to July suspended sentences will not have the same effect as direct prison terms to deter any person harbouring the same intention.
In the cases of the three men only convicted of breaking Namibia’s immigration laws he proposed a suspended sentence of six months.