Two more accused persons who were held at Otavi holding cells have come forward to complain about the brutal nature of police officers at the station. Erich Popas and Anton Gaoab were left with a broken arm and an injured limb, respectively, after allegedly being brutally battered by police officers while being taken into custody.
Popas, Gaoab and Frans Ekandjo – all residents of Otjiwarongo – were arrested on charges of attempted murder, illegal hunting and theft. Speaking to New Era, Popas explained they were walking to the police station with the aim of handing themselves to the police for the charges levelled against them on Monday last week.
However, as they were passing through one farm they were caught by a police reservist and members of the neighbourhood watch for trespassing and illegal hunting. Popas added that the group assaulted him and fellow suspects before they were handed to the police at Otavi police station.
“Those guys were kicking and punching us. I now have a broken arm and rib,” said a frustrated Popas. He noted that his friend, Gaoab, was kicked in his private parts and as a result is now unable to walk due to the swelling.
The assaulted group said that they want answers from the police. They want to know why their rights were violated and why they were left injured when it is the police’s job to protect them. “If you commit an offence, does that give the police the right to take the law into their own hands?” asked a disgruntled Popas.
The police have refuted all allegations levelled against their officers, dismissing the claims as malicious. Police Commissioner Edward Kanguatjivi said the police are aware of the three suspects, who claim they were assaulted by the police at Otavi. However, he remarked that the police would never take the law into their own hands.
Responding to New Era’s report, entitled ‘Police Brutality unfolds at Otavi’s holding cells’, Kanguatjivi said the three suspects were never assaulted while in police custody. “The three accused were assaulted by the owner of the farm where they were caught trespassing. It was not by police officers at all,” he maintained.
A case of assault has since been opened against the farm owner, who allegedly assaulted the accused. Regarding the case of Ekandjo, Kanguatjivi said he was indeed assaulted while in custody, but it was by his fellow inmates, adding that it was certainly not at the hands of the police.
Kanguatjivi emphasised that if the accused persons were assaulted by the police a case would have been opened, which has not happened and further noted that police investigations in the matter are ongoing. All three suspects are out on bail.
The concern over potential police brutality came to light after the legal representative of Frans Ekandjo, Attorney Pombili Shipila – who brought the matter to the attention of New Era – said he feared for his client’s life.