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Former Namibian Institute of Mining and Technology (NIMT) employee Ernst Lichtenstrasser, convicted of murdering the institute's two top executives in 2019, will be sentenced in the Windhoek High Court on Monday.

Judge Christie Liebenbergh reserved sentencing until Monday, following pre-sentence proceedings on Thursday.

Pre-sentence proceedings allow for both the state, represented by Antonia Verhoef, and the accused, who opted to defend himself, to make submissions or lead evidence either in aggravation or in mitigation of a sentence to be meted out by the court.
 
On March 13, Lichtenstrasser's pre-sentence hearing was postponed to Thursday, April 25, after a Namibian Correctional Service medical doctor told Judge Liebenbergh the accused was not fit for the continuation of his trial due to medical problems of depression and hypertension. 

Lichtenstrasser, at that time, embarked on a hunger strike and failed in a suicide bid.

On Thursday, when the hearing resumed, Lichtenstrasser again, appearing in person, requested a further postponement because he petitioned Chief Justice Peter Shivute about his trial and a complaint he lodged at the Office of the Ombudsman about his lack of legal representation. 

Licthenstrasser argued that the outcome of these two matters is still pending, and as a result, he is not in a position to continue with the proceedings.

Following a brief adjournment, Judge Liebenbergh returned to the bench, ruled that it would not be in the best interest to grant a further postponement, and ordered the continuation of the hearing.

When he was given a chance to present evidence in mitigation of the sentence, Lichtenstrasser told the court that he had three witnesses to testify in his mitigation but that he was not able to lead evidence in mitigation and that he was also not in a position to make oral submissions. 

Judge Liebenbergh stated that the court now deemed it appropriate to accept that the accused waived his right to oral submissions in mitigation of a sentence.

State Prosecutor Antonia Verhoef then rose, arguing in aggravation with the sentence, pointing out that the crimes Lictenstrasser had been convicted of were serious, noting that the family members of the deceased suffered pain and agony with the spouse of one of the deceased earlier, testifying that she had lost her soulmate as a result of the conduct of the accused. 

Advocate Verhoef told the court that family members are still struggling to come to terms with the murders, which she described as premeditated, cold-blooded, and callous in nature. 

She told the court that the state would want the court to impose life imprisonment but is well aware that the court may take into consideration the advanced age of the accused. 

Judge Liebenbergh convicted Lichtenstrasser on eight charges in November last year. 

A number of those charges are connected to the murder of NIMT executive director Eckhart Mueller and his deputy, Heimo Hellwig, who were shot multiple times and killed in cold blood at the institute's head office in Arandis on April 15, 2019. 

Lictenstrasser is 62 years old. He has been in custody since his arrest in 2019. 

Judge Liebenbergh postponed the hearing until Monday for sentencing.

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Photo Credits
Namibian Sun

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Author
Peter Denk