Following the withdrawal of renowned human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe from the trial of the eight men still facing various counts of high treason, sedition, public violence and the illegal importation of weapons and ammunition in the Windhoek High Court, it emerged this week that the Department of Legal Aid has agreed to provide them with another lawyer.
The first accused, Progress Kenyoka Munuma, speaking on behalf of his co-accused informed Acting Judge Petrus Unengu that members of Legal Aid visited them in the trial-awaiting section of Windhoek Correctional Facility on Friday and informed them that a new lawyer would be appointed for them.
It is currently not known who the new lawyer will be. The judge also informed them formally of the outcome of their petition to the Supreme Court.
Tjombe successfully petitioned the Chief Justice for an appeal on the ruling by Acting High Court Judge Petrus Unengu that the Namibian courts have jurisdiction over the men, in the process securing the freedom of one of the men, Boster Mubuyaeta Samuele, but he failed to convince five judges of appeal that the other accused deserve the same.
Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President Petrus Damaseb with Chief Justice Peter Shivute, Justice of Appeal Dave Smuts, Acting Justice of Appeal Fred Chomba and Acting Justice of Appeal Yvonne Mokgoro concurring, found that the Namibian security forces abducted Samuele from Botswana illegally and, as such, Namibian courts have no jurisdiction to try him on any of the charges preferred against him.
They ordered a permanent stay of prosecution against him, which will have the effect that the accused may not be prosecuted again on any of the charges on which he was indicted in the present prosecution.
Deputy Chief Justice Damaseb, however, noted that the same cannot be said for Munuma, Shine Samulandela Samulandela, Manuel Manepelo Makendano, Alex Sinjabata Mushakwa, Diamond Samunzala Salufu, Hoster Simasiku Ntombo and John Mazile Tembwe.
He found that the seven accused were brought onto Namibian territory by agents of Botswana, where they were surrendered to Namibian government officials.
The eight men had petitioned the Chief Justice to hear their appeal after High Court Judge Petrus Unengu dismissed their initial application on jurisdiction and then refused an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
They claim they were abducted from Botswana and brought to Namibia by officials of the Namibian government with the full knowledge and cooperation of the Botswana government.
Judge Unengu dismissed the appeal application in March. The accused – except for Frederick Isaka Ntambila – who were arrested in the Zambezi Region (then Caprivi) questioned the High Court’s jurisdiction over them.
It is alleged they took part in a conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the Namibian government in the former Caprivi Region between September 1998 and December 2003. They were convicted of high treason in July of 2007 and sentenced to jail terms ranging from 30 to 32 years.
The Supreme Court then set the convictions and sentences aside in July 2014 and ordered that they should be retried in the High Court.
The matter has now been postponed to October 27 to give the new lawyer a chance to get up to speed. The accused men remain in custody. State Advocate Neville Mawambo appears on behalf of the State.