11 December 2011

Summary of 5 – 7 December 2011

It is becoming more and more obvious that the court is not willing to allow any defence witnesses. In the last couple of weeks a number of attempts were made by the defence to summon Somali residents as witnesses to prove that the accused were forced to participate in the attack of the Taipan. All these applications have been declined by the court on the grounds that it would be too difficult to track the witnesses down (the absence of a functioning postal service and a registration system in Somalia were cited several times), that it would be too difficult to get visas for them, that they wouldn't be able to travel, or that obtaining the visas would involve having to pay a bribe and German court couldn't do that. 

Now the defence has tried to address these issues and to counter these claims. One lawyer presented detailed information about a plane owned by the German intelligence service BND, which has been used in the past to fly members of the Taliban from Afghanistan to Germany for negotiations – an operation that was not hindered by the absence of a registration system in Afghanistan, the lack of a postal service or the lack of visas. The lawyer listed the registration details of the plane, who owned it and where it was currently located. But the judge is not interested in knowing about the plane, he's only interested in finding out how the lawyer found out.

Then another lawyer presented a list of the crew members (including passport numbers) of the Dhow that was used as the 'mothership' by the pirates. Any of these people would be valuable witnesses for the defence. Again, the judge doesn't want to hear about it and claims that such a list can't exist. And now it's the prosecutor who demands to know how the lawyer obtained the information.     

And again, the three under-age defendants were refused bail. As before, everything that is presented for their release – a very positive report by the prison staff, an offer of accommodation by a youth organisation – has been used as arguments why they can't be released. According to the judge, the three are enjoying privileges in prison (e.g. access to a TV) which aren't available in the youth facility. Therefore they would be better off in prison than outside.

And another accusation which has been made before has been made again: the judge alleged that people who show solidarity with the accused would also be prepared to help the accused escape. This time, this accusation was made in a written statement by the judge, which was handed to the defence in a non-public part of the meeting and was not published at the time. Most of the lawyers were visibly upset at this procedure, because it meant that the defendants themselves would not have access to these allegations. A heated argument between the defence and the judge ensued. The judge refused to have the statement translated verbally or in writing – after all “in other circumstances also, the accused don't always understand everything”.