30 January 2011

Report from Day 13

Day 13 – 24 January 2011

A testimony backfires

The day starts badly. The judge announces that he will read the decision on the bail application for Yousuf M. The defence counsels complain that – with the exception of Yousuf's lawyer – they  weren't informed. The judge's excuse is that there are only two fax machines in court and it wasn't possible to send the decision to all 20 counsel without blocking the machines for all other trials.

The bail application has been declined. Many reasons are mentioned, ranging from the accused's ability to distinguish right from wrong to the crime not just being attempted but actually carried out. His age also plays a role – the court assumes that he is more than 17 years old. A lot of it is justified with Yousuf's own testimony in court a week earlier. The caution that 'everything you say may be used against you' turns out to be true once more.

While the accused shrinks further and further into his seat, a voice from the public gallery says: “You arsehole”. Obviously, court must take a break after that.

When court resumes, the judge continues to talk about flight risk. The accused takes his headphones off and rests his head on the table. The judge insists that he put his headphones back on and listen. I wonder if this isn't some form of torture. 

The judge explicitly states something for the records: “During the reading of the decision by the judge, a yet to be identified member of the public said the words 'you arsehole' in the direction of the judge. This provocation will not be tolerated by the court. The prosecutor is investigating the possibility of laying charges. This court will not tolerate further insults”. Contempt of court is punishable by  €300 and/or up to 3 days imprisonment.

After this, a new witness is heard: Mr Kämmer from the Federal Criminal Office (BKA), unit SD37 which deals with abductions of German citizens abroad. In short, he was annoyed that he hadn't been able to do what he wanted in Dubai because the local authorities hadn't responded to his call for assistance.

He personally interviewed the crew of the Tromp, the Dutch frigate which stormed the Taipan. They had watched the videos taken by the German Orion reconnaissance plane in order to establish whether the damage they think was caused by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) had existed before the Tromp arrived. But they didn't arrive at any conclusion because one of the Tromp's crew had stated that the damage had resulted from his weapon. Kämmer had wanted to take fingerprints from the weapons but they had been handled improperly by the Dutch crew and were salt water damaged. The two shells of the alleged RPGs had been thrown overboard by the Dutch crew.

Kämmer was also involved when the prisoners were transferred from the Netherlands to Germany. He was surprised that they had personal belongings with them, among them two mobile phones and hand written notes. The notes were translated: that a ship should be hijacked to demand their freedom. Neither the prosecutor nor the defence ask any questions.

The BKA tried to trace the calls made from the cell phones, but the calls to Somalia couldn't be traced. A Dutch officer had used a trick to find out who owned which phone: he offered the prisoners that they could make a call home, so each took their phone.

Some of the accused complain about headaches and Yousuf M. states that he hasn't eaten for three days, since he learned about his bail application being declined.
As we leave the court room, I look at a book one of the guards is reading. It's a trash novel from a series called 'The Great Western'. Obviously, real life pirate stories are boring to some people.