Former treason suspects win first round

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Maria Amakali

Windhoek-The Windhoek High Court has dismissed the application by the prosecutor-general to have the civil suit of 20 Caprivi treason suspects put on hold.

The 20 treason tribalists are suing the state for malicious prosecution over their detention for alleged involvement in the failed 1999 plot to forcefully secede the then Caprivi region from the rest of Namibia.

Last year the prosecutor-general appealed the High Court’s decision to acquit the accused of all charges in the Supreme Court, after the court granted an application for leave to appeal.

However, the prosecutor-general filed an application in the High Court to wait for the finalisation of the appeal in the Supreme Court before the civil case against the prosecutor-general could proceed.

The 20 individuals are amongst the 43 acquitted of all charges in the Caprivi high treason case by the same court in October of 2003.

The treason trial involved 122 accused persons charged with high treason, murder, sedition and many other offences, which consequently resulted in over 270 counts of criminal conduct.

Thirty-five of the accused were found not guilty on the main charge of high treason and related counts.

However, 30 of the accused were found guilty of high treason, nine charges of murder, and 90 counts of attempted murder and were subsequently sentenced.

The 20 freed suspects brought a case to the High Court suing the state for damages over the alleged malicious prosecution and alternatively violation of their human rights by the prosecutor general.

Deputy Judge President Hosea Angula explained that the case would continue, as the factors presented by the prosecutor general did not point out what constituted exceptional circumstances for the court to grant a stay in the ongoing civil proceedings.

“Furthermore the PG failed to make out a case that the Prosecutor General would be prejudiced if the stay is not granted,” Angula explained.

After the dismissal of the prosecutor-general’s application, the court ordered the prosecutor general’s office to pay the legal costs of the 20 respondents – with the exception of those that had representatives from Legal Aid.

The treason trial is the longest trial ever held in the Namibian courts, after having started as far back as August 2004. Most of the suspects implicated in the case have been in prison for almost 16 years.

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