Govt denies men abducted for trial

A former Namibian army commander and a senior policeman have denied that the security forces abducted 13 alleged Caprivi secessionists rebels from neighbouring Zambia and Botswana to stand trial for high treason in Namibia.

The 13 are part of a group of 121 men accused of belonging to the Caprivi Liberation Army, which attacked the Caprivi regional capital, Katima Mulilo, in August 1999. They face over 200 charges, including high treason.

They alleged that their return to Namibia and subsequent appearance in court was due to their illegal kidnapping by Namibian security forces, and they should therefore be released.

They said the authorities in Zambia and Botswana had told them they were being taken to a country other than Namibia. Instead, they were taken to the border and handed over to the Namibian authorities, who then detained them, Phil Ya Nangoloh, spokesman for the Namibian Society for Human Rights told IRIN on Wednesday.

State witnesses countered that the men were not abducted, but were handed over by the authorities of the neighbouring countries.

Hironimus Goreseb, the police chief of the Caprivi region at the time of the alleged abduction, told the court that the police "reversed their vehicle over the Namibia/Zambia border and the men climbed into the vehicle".

Major General Martin Shalli, Namibia's then Army Commander, reportedly told the court on Monday that he had asked the Zambian authorities to hand the men over and they did. He said the thirteen were seen merely as illegal immigrants when they were handed over.

The trial in Grootfontein, north of the capital Windhoek, has taken four years to begin, with all the accused remaining behind bars, and 12 dying in custody.