26 November 2011

Court Report Day 59 – 23 November 2011

The day starts with a rather intrusive photographer from the tabloid paper “Bildzeitung” taking close-up photos of the accused before the trial starts. As soon as he has left, three defendants complain that that neither they nor their lawyers had been informed and that they do not want their photos taken. An incident earlier this year, where the brother of one of the accused had been murdered as a result of a newspaper report about the trial, shows that their concerns are justified. The judge replies, saying that the photographer had been given permission under the condition that the faces would be pixilated – a rule he had set very early on in the trial, and which has not always been obeyed by newspapers. One of the lawyers asks whether the name signs on the tables would be pixilated as well.

But then the judge surprises everyone by announcing that was considering to bring in a witness from Mogadishu, after already having declined an application by the defence to do so. The witness could testify that one of the accused had been press-ganged, according to the defence. The judge reports about a long telephone conversation he has had with a Somali professor in Oslo about the safest way to get the witness out of Somalia and to Hamburg.

Finally, the lawyer for one of the younger defendants applies to hear the psychiatrist of the youth prison, who could testify that it is impossible to treat the psychological problems of the defendant over such a length of time by medication only. The lawyer also states that the foreigners authority had give a written assurance that the under-age defendants would receive a temporary residence permit, if released. So the judge's assessment that they would be released in to an illegal status was rubbished.

22 November 2011

Day 58 - 21.11.11: More bizarre reasons for keeping the accused in remand

This happened after the lawyers of the 3 under-age accused explained why their clients must be released - after having been imprisoned for 18 months and 58 days of court.
Today, the judge found a new reason why the defendants – who have now been remanded for one and a half years – still can't be released on bail. Previously, he had claimed that there was flight risk, despite the fact that none of the accused had shown any desire to be in war-torn Somalia at the moment. Then he used the fact that some people had organized solidarity events for the accused against them, claiming that these people would aid their escape. Now he's on to something new:
the defendants don't have residency in Germany – and they can't possibly be released into an illegal status!
So, first they are brought here against their will and locked up. Then the fact that they don't have any social relations in Hamburg is a reason why they have to be isolated further. And now the fact that they are here is reason enough why they can't be released. In its Kafkaesque argument, the court says that, if they were released, they would be here illegally. Therefore they would have to be deported. But that would mean they would abscond, so therefore they can't be released. The fact that the three under-age defendants would in all likelihood receive a temporary permit (“Duldung”) is only a minor factor here.  

So what is the legal status of the 10 accused? Are they being held illegally? A prison cell is not an extra-territorial place - so surely if they live on German soil, that must mean that they have some sort of residency status. 

21 November 2011

Day 57 - Court Report 15 November 2011

Today a school group attends the trial. The judge declines more applications to hear defence witnesses with the usual standard arguments: the address was not clear, it would cost too much, it is unclear, whether the witness would be prepared to travel to Hamburg, or if interviewing someone on the phone the court couldn't be sure who they were talking to. The defence points out that the court did not have these reservations when trying to track down the Sri Lankan crew member of the Taipan. The judge spoke to the wife of the witness, without knowing for sure who they were talking to. The defence accuse the court of not wanting to hear any witnesses the defence puts forward and that the court was leaving it up to the defence alone to establish facts.

20 November 2011

Court Report 4, 8 and 14 November 2011

4 November 2011

Another accused makes a statement. He tells the court of how he was hired to repair outboard motors on fishing boats and ended up on the Taipan. The defence asks to have his colleagues from the workshop in Mogadishu heard. The prosecution objects with the argument that a foreign witness lacks credibility. The defence points out that this point was not raised when the Dutch marines were interviewed and that not hearing foreign witnesses in a matter that took case outside of Germany would be rather strange.

15 November 2011

Harbour tour 4 December, 2 pm

What does piracy have to do with the plunder of fish off the coast of Somalia? Who is using Somali waters as a dumping ground? What is the story with the weapons on the captured MS Faina? Who are the young men from Somalia? What does 'security' mean at the gulf of Aden?

This harbour trip shines a light on the political background of the current trial.

4 December, 2011 at 2pm, 'Vorsetzen' wharf (metro station Baumwall).

When pirate games for German kids become popular...

Adventure magazine for cool pirates!

A magazine, already in the 7th issue, well done and amusing for German kids whose parents can afford to pay 3.40 euro for a copy.
It is sold all over Germany so that the youth can get a taste of the freedom and adventure that is expecting them at sea.

But what about the ones in Somalia who, because they are lacking the sausages to build pirate ships, are forced to really become pirates in order to have something to eat?

The inequality in this world is clear to see - anyone who can count to 3 knows.

Isn't it a strange thing to let the German kids read and play pirate games and at the same time imprison young Somali people for over a year and force them to attend court for more than 57 days now, also in Germany?

Two worlds clashing.
And no justice to be seen...

56 day of Court seen in drawings. "Tell them we are also Europe..."

judge refuses Dagawayn as witness because on the fone he can not know which Dagawayne it is

"tell them we are also Europe", was written on a notice to a lawyer, which is nothing to be presented at court, but the Judge did

the judge is playing ping pong with the Motions of the Lawyers

no words

two worlds .

10 November 2011

One year of “Piracy Trial”: release the juvenile defendants!

Press Release 10 November 2011
One year of “Piracy Trial”: release the juvenile defendants!

Observers of the trial in Hamburg of the ten alleged pirates reiterate their demand for the immediate release of the three juvenile defendants who are still held in custody in Hamburg's youth prison, 'Hahnöversand'. Among the groups observing the trial are No One Is Illegal, the Third World Harbour Group and the One-World Network.

The Commissioner of the European Council for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, has repeatedly stated that juvenile defendants in detention are frequently denied access to education and are exposed to violence and abuse. It has also been proven that detention has negative psychological effects which increase the longer the detention lasts.

For the last 18 months, ten Somali have been remanded in custody. They are accused of  having attacked the container vessel MV Taipan. Three of the accused are minors. The trial started almost a year ago, on November 21, 2010. Since then, the accused have spent over 50 days in court. The defence has pointed out that there is no flight risk, that the defendants would oblige with bail conditions and that they would not abscond. Neither the prospect of a long sentence nor the expected uncertain legal status after the sentence would entice the accused to return to Somalia. Somalia is at war and some of the accused have lost contact with their families who had to flee their homes.

All applications to have the juvenile defendants released on bail have been declined. Instead, the court has reacted by ignoring birth certificates and letting a forensic scientist determine their age, and by exaggerating the charges. Last week the prosecution tried to have the case closed, ignoring the requirement to hear the Youth Aid and the juvenile defendants' guardians.

Some of the defence lawyers, together with observers, criticise – among a number of other aspects – the fact that the juvenile defendants are being held in custody for much longer than their German equivalents would be. “Also, they are refused the education they are entitled to according to the youth laws,” said Michaela Goedecke of the group No One Is Illegal in Hamburg. They should be accommodated in accordance with their age.

The trial observers are asking why the juvenile defendants continue to be held in custody. Is it because the court wants to set an example – a practice not allowed in law, and which is also scientifically proven to not to work? Or are the reasons of a racist nature? Or is there an unspoken desire to legitimize the German military operations in the Horn of Africa?

Next trial date: Monday, 14 November 2011,  10 am.

Court Report 2 November 2011

Two of the three court translators are missing today because they are sick with food poisoning. The judge declines the application from the previous hearing to summon Abdulei Dhagawayne (Big Ears).

The prosecution has had enough and wants to proceed with the closing statements. They also demand to have the last word. The defence is upset and accuses the prosecution of ignoring the proceedings, especially the fact that this is a youth court. The judge clarifies that first the Youth Aid and the report from the remand prison will have to be heard and that the trial can't close today simply because the translators are missing. One of the accused offers to help the court, although he claims to have been betrayed by the Dutch marines.

Court Report 31 October 2011

Big Ears
The day starts with the judge declining a raft of applications from the previous days: no need for an expert from Mogadishu, no need to hear the wife of one of the accused.

Then a defendant makes a statement, in which he describes how he was forced to participate in the attack on the Taipan: he had borrowed some money to start a school. He had arranged to repay the debt in instalments but suddenly the creditor wanted all the money back at once. This was impossible and the only other option for him was to join the pirates. The boss of the operation was a man called „Dhagawayne“ - Big Ears. He had threatened to kill the family of the accused if he didn't take part as a translator, therefore he had no choice but to participate. The defence counsel argues that this must lead to an acquittal and applies to have “Big Ears” summoned or at least interview him via video link.

Court Report 27 October 2011

After declaring the Sri Lankan crew member of the Taipan 'untraceable', the judge proceeds to read out a transcript of an interview with him, which was conducted by the German federal police in Colombo. One could get the impression that reading out this statement has been the judge's intention for some time, which would explain his luke-warm approach to tracing the sailor's whereabouts.

The transcript - translated by a Sri Lankan employee of the German embassy - contains a description of how the Taipan was attacked, how the crew had to duck on the bridge and then retreat into the safe room. The 'able seaman' claims to have recognised one of the accused on a photo presented to him by the German police.

08 November 2011

01 November 2011

Court report 19 October 2011

The judge declares a witness untraceable, although his whereabouts are easy to find out. Meanwhile the public is excluded from part of the hearing because a court employee doesn't feel like checking the PA system.

As on the previous day, the court expects the Taipan crew member from Sri Lanka, who doesn't show up. The judge explains why none of the German representations in Sri Lanka have managed to serve the court summons to the Taipan crew member. He is currently employed on a ship named the 'Dubai Star', the whereabouts of the ship can be obtained through a simple google search, but supposedly the name of the shipping company is unknown. Therefore the summons can't be served. It seems strange that the German justice system would be unable to find out the owner of a freight ship. But given that earlier in the year the court had declared a Somali city with a population of 100,000 non-existent, maybe it's not surprising.