30 January 2011

Report from Day 14

Day 14 – 26 January 2011

Hans Lodder, captain of the Dutch frigate “Tromp” gave evidence today. The examination took all day - we will try to summarize...

He was informed by a German aircraft that a German ship had been under attack, some 40 – 50 miles away. He sent his helicopter off to try and prevent a hijacking and then went in the direction as well. Before the helicopter had reached the Taipan, Lodder received news that the Taipan had been captured and that the crew were in the safe room. The dhow Rutrut, which was approaching, was chased away with warning shots. The Tromp circled the Taipan several times and tried to contact the pirates through long range acoustic devices (a form of super loud hailer). After that, Lodder contacted his command centre in Den Haag who, after two hours, gave permission to free the Taipan.

Lodder then describes how they saw light reflexes and assumed they were gun fire, so they shot back. Then the crew abseiled from the helicopter and overwhelmed the pirates. First the frigate fired at the bridge of the Taipan to cover the soldiers, then the helicopter fired and then the soldiers fired themselves. Then there is some confusion about whether the shots were fired at the starboard or the port side of the Taipan.

The judge wants to know if the operation was part of the ATALANTA mission. The answer is no, they acted under a Dutch mandate, the ship was outside of the ATALANTA zone. Asked what exactly his task was at the time, Lodder replies: to wipe out piracy worldwide. The judge reminds him that, according to his report, Lodder was searching for the dhow Rutrut, which was assumed to have been captured by pirates.

Next there is some dispute between the judge and Lodder, whether the pirates were arrested or detained. Lodder denies that there is a difference. At that stage the interpreter retires and a new one takes over.

During this break the witness has to leave the court room and one of defendants makes another statement. He says that during his interrogation on the Tromp he was tied to a chair, naked.

When court resumes, the judge wants to clarify whether Lodder's brief included detaining or arresting the pirates. It turns out it didn't. After he had captured the 10 men, he phoned his command centre and got permission to take them to another place. Which place? Where they could be interrogated. Where was that? That wasn't known at the time. The judge suggests that there was an alternative – to let them go.

With the statement from the defendant in mind, the judge then asks about the interrogation methods used and whether any 'critical situations' arose. Lodder, denies, the men were given fresh clothing, taken to the hangar and asked for their personal details and whether they wanted to make a statement. At this stage 3 of the 20 defendants want to talk to their lawyers, visibly upset at Lodder's statements.

Finally the judge wants to know whether Lodder had had any contact with the captain of the Taipan, which Lodder denies. And what happened to the items found on the Taipan? The ammunition was thrown overboard, the skiffs destroyed and the guns seized.