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Thomas sues over alleged prison assault

2022-09-05  Roland Routh

Thomas sues over alleged prison assault

American murder accused Marcus Thomas is suing prison authorities, a former safety and security minister and five correctional officers for damages in relation to an alleged assault perpetrated on him. 

The main respondents are Commissioner General Raphael Tuhafeni Hamunyela of the Namibian Correctional Service, and former safety and security minister Charles Namoloh. 

The five officers include Silas Mateus, who was the head of security at the Windhoek Correctional Facility at the time of the incident. Thomas claims the officers assaulted him at the order of Mateus on 13 January 2017. 

He said he was involved in a physical altercation with another inmate, Reinhold Itembu, and that they were separated by correctional officers before he was escorted to his cell. 

However, after a while he was fetched from his cell and taken to the office of Mateus, who was accompanied by the four officers. While in the office, he was interrogated about the incident with Itembu. He explained his version, but was told by Mateus that he is lying and that he has a problem with Africans. 

He was then ordered to get on his knees and when he refused, he was allegedly hit with a rubber baton in his face by Mateus. He claims the officers immediately joined in the beating. 

After the alleged beating, he was taken to a single cell in the isolation unit, where he was kept until a nurse from the facility’s clinic attended to his injuries. He was later taken to the Katutura hospital, from where he was returned to his single cell. He is claiming N$500 000 for assault and torture, N$200 000 for emotional or post-traumatic stress, N$400 000 for constitutional damages, plus 20% interest per annum from date of judgement until full payment. 

All of the respondents are defending the lawsuit. In their plea, they claim that the inmates of the trial-awaiting section are all accusing Itembu of being an informant for the authorities, and this has led to continuous beatings for him. On the day in question, they say, Itembu had just returned from hospital after a nasty beating by Kevan Townsend when Marcus accosted him and beat him, causing a heavy swelling around his eye. Townsend is the co-accused of Marcus in their murder trial. They are accused of the assassin-like killing of André Heckmair in January 2011. Their trial is still ongoing. The respondents further claim that they attempted to diffuse the situation by calling Itembu and Thomas to Mateus’ office. But in the office, Marcus again assaulted Itembu, and they ordered him (Thomas) to sit down on the floor, and for Itembu to leave the office. However, the defendants claim, when Itembu attempted to leave, Thomas locked Itembu in a ‘vice-grip’ position, and refused to let go. 

He also threatened to break Itembu’s neck, and this caused Mateus to beat him on his arms with the baton in order for him to release Itembu, they said. Thomas, however, refused to let go, and Mateus continued to beat him on his arms and back. This was done because he feared for Itembu’s life, it is stated. They further said that it was only Mateus who beat Thomas, and that it was necessary and reasonable in the circumstances.  

The matter is presided over by Windhoek High Court Judge Hannelie Prinsloo, who set down the matter for hearing on 21 November. Thomas is represented by Salomon Kanyemba, and the respondents by Mkhuli Khupe from the government attorney’s

2022-09-05  Roland Routh

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