WINDHOEK: A suspect in a high treason trial in which over 100 people from the Caprivi Region are being tried for an alleged attempt to cede the region from the rest of Namibia, has been discharged.
Rodwell Kasika Mukwenda was on Friday acquitted of all charges against him by High Court Judge Elton Hoff as there was no prima facie evidence presented before court during the trial linking him to the alleged failed attempt to cede the Caprivi Region from the rest of Namibia in 1999.
Mukwenda was discharged and set free following an urgent application for discharge by his State-appointed defence lawyer Victor Kachaka on Friday, shortly after Public Prosecutor Taswald July had closed the State’s case.
The application for discharge was lodged by the defence lawyer (Kachaka) as per the provisions of Section 175 of the Namibian Criminal Procedures Act as there was no evidence on record showing that Mukwenda was part of the group of people that participated in the alleged failed attempt to cede the Caprivi Region from the rest of the country.
Mukwenda has been in police custody at the Windhoek Central Prison’s holding cells for about 13 years, awaiting the finalisation of the case.
He has expressed satisfaction following his discharge from the case.
The over 100 suspects are variously charged with murder, sedition and high treason, following a failed armed attack on Government forces and buildings in the regional capital of Katima Mulilo in the Caprivi Region on 02 August 1999.
The attack was allegedly launched by a group of people calling itself the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA), who reportedly intended to form their own republic.
The evening of the alleged attack, former Namibian Head of State, President Sam Nujoma declared a state of emergency in the Caprivi Region.
Members of the Namibia Defence Force (NDF) and members of the Namibian Police Force (NamPol)’s Special Field Unit, a paramilitary police unit, were both deployed in the Caprivi Region and repelled the separatists’ attack.
A total of 11 innocent people were killed during the attack, amongst them six members of the security forces.
Up to 300 suspected rebel fighters and civilian sympathisers were detained of which only about 132 were later charged.
Initially, the high treason trial started on 27 October 2003 in the High Court at Grootfontein, some 470 kilometres north-east of the capital.
However, it was at a later stage moved to Windhoek due to security reasons and some legal technical problems.
According to court records, by 2007, the trial transcripts amounted to more than 18 000 typewritten pages and 230 full days had been spent in court.
This makes it by far the longest and largest trial in the history of Namibia.
More applications for the discharge of the accused persons will be brought before court on 03 September this year, when the trial resumes once more in court.