10 February 2011

Report from Day 15

Day 15 – 31 January 2011

The Dutch navy officer de Vind is giving evidence today. But the hearing starts late because the prisoner transport is stuck in traffic.

During all the previous court hearings several people had been sitting between the press bench and the public gallery, observing the proceedings. They are neither lawyers, nor court officials, nor prison guards. We have long suspected that they are non-uniformed police. Today they made sarcastic remarks about one of the defendants not having eaten for days. Then they ask us if we knew who the person was who called the judge an arsehole at the last hearing.  We're pretty sure now.

The only witness today is the Dutch Navy officer De Vind who was deployed on the Tromp (the Dutch frigate that captured the pirates). His job had been to board the Taipan and to ascertain whether an act of piracy had taken place. In this case they knew already that it was a case of piracy, because the pirates had already taken over the ship. He went on board to secure evidence and take photographs. On board the Tromp orders were given to stay off the deck because it was assumed that the pirates would fire at them. That is why the special helicopter unit was deployed.

De Vind went on board to find the the pirates tied up on the after deck. He then went around the ship taking photos. It was difficult to establish the whereabouts of the crew, because it was unknown where the safe room was located. They made announcements on a megaphone to the crew, but they didn't come out. Only after he was talking to a another soldier in Dutch, a door opened and the crew came out. De Vind says, he assembled the crew on the after deck and spoke to them about what had happened. After the crew had checked their cabins, some reported items missing. Some of them were recovered from the pirates – mainly mobile phones and wallets. Those were returned to the crew immediately.

De Vind was then approached by a crew member who had been on “piracy watch”. He told de Vind that he had clearly seen the person who he said had launched a grenade at the Taipan. The projectile went through the entire bridge. He then identified the person on the photos that had been after the pirates had been arrested by the Dutch. The judge reminds the translator (de Vind is giving evidence in Dutch) to distinguish between 'arrested' and 'detained'. The translator assures the judge that she knows the difference – de Vind did say 'arrested'. This distinction appears to be becoming increasingly important in this trial.

The judge wants to know about the weapons and where they were found. Several rusty AK47s were found (one behind the toilet) and one RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). They also found knives and a cricket bat. De Vind is certain that a grenade went straight through the bridge without exploding.

Then it's on to the photo book. There are 2 photos of a skiff and a discussion ensues about whether it's the same boat or two different ones. Then the judge, the prosecutor and de Vind look at a photos of weapons, followed by more questions about guns and ammunition for the rest of the court day.