Parents of children allegedly preyed on by a man facing 40 charges related to child sexual abuse and the production and sale of child pornography online, are strongly opposed to his bid for bail slated for next week.
Windhoek resident Johann Wickus Maree’s formal bail application will be heard on Monday at the magistrate’s court in Windhoek.
The police indicated they are also opposing bail for Maree, who has been behind bars since his arrest in April last year.
Meanwhile, more than 1 700 people, including parents of the alleged victims, have signed a petition urging the courts to keep Maree behind bars until his trial is finalised.
They argue that he presents a danger to children and society in general if released, due the crimes he is accused of.
Maree this year denied guilt on all charges, including child rape, indecent assault, trafficking of persons and forcing children to engage in sexual activities against their will.
He is also accused of filming the abuse and selling it on forums on the so-called ‘dark web’.
After his arrest last year, authorities said they were investigation crimes he committed against dozens of children over the course of four years, between 2016 and 2020.
The charges against Maree stem from a collaborative investigation by the Namibian and international police agencies.
Last year, bail was denied after the state prosecutor objected on grounds that included the seriousness of the charges against Maree, and the public interest in the case.
The state prosecutor warned the court that he is a flight risk, because of his family connections in South Africa and Australia.
Maree worked as a freelance photographer specialising in school events such as sports, a job that allowed him close access to children who he is accused of grooming and subsequently sexually abusing.
He reportedly also ran a website named ‘Boy Idols’.
The police last year stated that he is suspected of using hidden cameras to capture footage of underage boys in public restrooms.
A petition started last year by parents and concerned citizens, objected strongly to the possibility of bail for Maree, who they said is suspected of having sexually abused more than 34 children.
“Please put yourself in the shoes of these children, or even the victims’ parents, how would you feel?” the petition, signed to date by 1 700 persons, states.
“As the community and parents of the victims, [we] strongly object to bail for the accused. We also hope he will receive a hefty jail sentence, because we fear for our children and the community at large should he be freed.”