28 February 2012

Two interviews with Somali journalists in Germany.

We document two interviews with Somali journalists who had to flee from Mogadishu and are now living in Germany, hoping to find the security they need until they can return to their country and continue working without putting their lives in danger with every report they write.

We met the two during the second “No border lasts forever” conference in Frankfurt in December 2011 and talked about our work. We decided to stay in contact and to try to work together.
Now they are becoming members of the German Journalists Union VERDI-DJU and are learning the language to be able to continue their journalistic work here – as soon as their refugee status allows them to work.

Journalist 1:I come from Somalia. I was working as a journalist in Somalia. I came here to Germany, I arrived in Hamburg. I stayed 5 months in Hungary then I came to Germany 2010. Now I am living 1 year 4 months in a small town called Germersheim. I was living in the capital of Somalia, in Mogadishu and was working for a local radio station called Shabelle.


25 February 2012


After 77 trial days, the walls are starting to adapt to the situation...

During the first months, the young Somali believed that the person in court doing most of the talking was their executioner.

In reality it was the presiding judge, who has been wearing a white bow tie throughout the trial, in order to be distinguishable from the other judges and jurors.

It took some effort by the lawyers to get the young defendants to believe that this man will not execute them, and that capital punishment is not practiced in Germany.

24 February 2012

Ready to prosecute? Suspected pirates on trial in Hamburg.

The first “Piracy Trial” in Germany in 400 years is coming to an end after a year and a half. Since November 2010, ten Somali, of which three are under age, have been on trial in Hamburg. They are charged with having attacked the container vessel Taipan, owned by a German company.

The trial and the complicated circumstances are raising numerous judicial questions. After 77 days of trial, the verdict is expected in March. The prosecution is demanding sentences of between four and eleven and a half years.

Public meeting
Tuesday, 6 March 2012, 7pm
German Seaman's Mission, Krayenkamp 5
(near St Michaelis Church, metro station Stadthausbrücke)

Anita Friedetzky, trial observer
Jan Oltmanns, seaman's deacon
Reimer Dohrn, “No one is illegal” network
Said Ahmed H. Jama, Somali translator

Frank Engelbrecht, Pastor St Katharinen church

Zentrum für Mission und Ökumene – Nordkirche weltweit (bisher Nordelbisches Missionszentrum)
Brücke – Ökumenisches Forum HafenCity
Eine Welt Netzwerk Hamburg e.V.

Flyer- [pdf]: http://www.ewnw.de/sites/default/files/handzettel-piratenprozess-2012-web.pdf

Harbour Cruise 26 February

Another harbour cruise will take place on Sunday, 26 February 2012 at 4pm.

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?

As the trial is coming to an end, we will once again be shining a light on its political background and give updates on where the trial is at.

Sunday, 26 February, 4 pm at 'Vorsetzen' wharf, metro station Baumwall. Tickets are €10 waged, €8 unwaged.

22 February 2012

Day 77 of the Trial

The trial has been separated today into two parts: part one consists of the 3 under-age defendants and 2 of the adults, the other part consists of the remaing 5 adults. The split was due to two factors. One was information received from the German police in India, who had confirmed that the full addresses of the crew of the dhow HudHud, which was allegedly used as the mothership, were known. This means that they can be called as witnesses. This has been applied for (repeatedly) by the lawyer of the oldest defendant. The other factor deciding the severance was a ruling by a higher court that the youngest of the accused would have to be released from custody by the end of March. 

For the judge there were two opposing needs: the need to finalize the trial for the under-age defendants by the end of March and the need for the Indian witnesses to be heard. Therefore the judge decided to reward two of the adult defendants, who had given full admissions early on in the trial, by assigning them to the group that will finish early. The trial for the remaining five will continue with the examination of the witnesses. We suspect that the reason why the four adults, who hadn't applied to have the Indian witneses heard have been grouped together with the one other  defendant is that the judge is expecting that the Inidan witnesses may contradict the stories of these four.  We say: FREEDOM to all!

When all seemed to have been settled, the lawyer of the youngest accused stated that his client had grown by 4 cm while in prison. This is significant because at the beginning of the trial, his 'official' age had been determined by dubious methods of the forensic institute of the Hamburg University Hospital, and was found to be 'fully grown'. Because fully grown people don't normally just grow by 4 cm, this indicates that the process of age assessment may have been flawed. This could have ramifications on the trial, because the court had operated on the assumption of the 'official' age of the defendant.  But maybe the judge will find a way to declare his body to have grown illegally and everything will be in order.

Day 76 - 20 February 12 - nothing happens except long breaks

In between the breaks, there were pieces of  2-3 minutes of trial.

Just like before, the court decided to reject an application to hear witnesses from India who could have exonerated one of the defendants - and with the same reasons as before: it would take too long for them to get the summons. One of the defence lawyers had researched the possibilities of sending a summons to the witnesses but the court wasn't interested. It appears the court is only interested in hearing witnesses for the prosecution.

The result was another challenge to the judge on the basis that this refusal to hear defence witnesses made it clear that the judge had already decided the verdict.This means that the trial is on hold again, while the challenge is decided by another court. We expect the result to be that the challenge is declined, just like the previous times.

All lawyers have agreed to a severance of the trial, so that the witness can be heard without the other defendants having to wait. This is an issue particularly for the three under-age defendants, who should not have spent such a long time imprisoned.

21 February 2012

Tial starts tomorow: 22.02. at 10.30 !!!!!

A question about International laws.

we got this email question and information and want to forward it, in case someone has an answer:

Two indian Fishermen have been killed a few days ago by Italian security forces on an italian ship. The indian government wants to bring them in front of the court. The italian authorities say, that this is not possible according to international law, because the fishermen were killed in international water. How comes then, that the  Somalis are being judged here. It would be very nice to find out what international law says here.


19 February 2012

Call for solidarity – trial coming to an end

The so called 'Hamburg Piracy Trial' will be coming to an end soon. The verdict and sentence have not been passed but the the prosecution has asked for harsh sentences. We are calling on everyone to show solidarity and oppose the racism and neocolonialism that this trial has shown.

Almost two years ago, the ten Somali men and boys were taken to Germany to be put on trial. The initial interest of the media and the public at the beginning of the trial on 20 November 2010 quickly died down, after the first weeks were spent with the lengthy assessment of the defendants' age. Because the court wouldn't trust the Somali documents or the statements of one of the defendant's mother, German 'experts' were called in who proceeded to determine the defendants' age according to dubious European standards.

After the crew of the MV 'Taipan' and Dutch navy witnesses had described the events on board the ship, the public gallery, as well as the press benches became depleted. The statements of the two white 'experts' regarding the situation in Somalia was of little interest – even to the court. Instead, evidence in form of mobile phones, SIM cards and photos of bullet holes were presented.

When finally the defendants got to talk, the depressing living conditions in Somalia became obvious. The judge had promised them that the individual circumstances of each of them would be taken into account in order to achieve a 'fair outcome'. The defendants put their trust in the fairness of the judge and told their stories about hunger, violence, war and destruction, the loss of their parents, brothers and sisters as well as their own children.

During this time, several people started to visit the three under-age accused in the youth detention centre, as well as some of the adults. During the course of the trial, several of the accused reported suffering from insomnia, head aches and psychological problems. Their main worry, they said, was not for themselves but about their families back home, who had lost a father, husband or son.

From a legal perspective the trial has been a farce because none of the applications by the defence were granted. From the dubious age determination contrary to the defendant's own birth certificate, to the  refusal to grant bail to the under-age accused – which in the case of German defendants would have been granted without a doubt – to the refusal to call any witnesses from Somalia who might have exonerated the accused. Some applications were simply dismissed as 'insignificant'.

It soon became clear that the purpose of the trial was to set an example. The trial was not about the individual guilt or otherwise of the ten accused, but rather about the interest of the European trade, fishing and waste disposal industry. People who have followed the trial have been shocked by the arrogant ways of the court. It has become more and more clear that this was about a demonstration of power by a European nation and a public justification for the military mission 'Atalanta'.

Those who have been visiting the accused are telling of fear, depression and hopelessness that has gripped the ten since the address by the prosecution. One of them asked the judge: “I don't understand what justice means here. Is it only there for Germans?”, making the racist nature of the trial clear.

We are therefore calling on people to come to the last few days of the trial. The defence will probably give their closing addresses this coming week and next week. Don't let this trial end without critical voices being heard!

Postscript to day 75

During the last trial day, the judge reported about an email from the German Federal Criminal Police (BKA), stating that the investigations to track down potential witnesses for the trial had been taken over by the local Indian police.

What we forgot to mention is that the judge used the term 'regrettably' in this context. Obviously the judge finds it natural that the German police should conduct their own investigations in other countries, and considers it an insult if the authorities of that country dare to interfere with that. The same sentiment had been shown before by a German police witness who inspected the Taipan in Dubai – he was complaining that his team hadn't been allowed to board the ship alone and had always been accompanied by the Dubai police.

16 February 2012

Court report from day 75 – 15 February 2012

None of the defence lawyers are objecting to a severance of the trial any more, and none of them are planning to introduce new applications.

What happens next depends on the pending application by one defendant to have the Indian crew of the dhow called as witnesses. The application has been going for a while and was last left with the judge declaring it too difficult to track the witnesses down, because – although a street name is known – the street was too long to find someone. Today, the judge said that the court had tried to establish contact with the port authority of the port where the dhow was registered, but that the contact person no longer worked their and their offices had moved. Also the court has received an email from the German federal police representation in India, stating that they have passed the request to find the witnesses on to the local police and that they expect to hear back from them by tomorrow. That will be the basis of the decision whether to hear these witnesses and therefore to split the trial. The judge indicated that, should the case get severed, there could be a number of different options.

This decision will be announced at the next court date on Monday, 20 February, 8 am.

10 February 2012

74 Trial day

FREEDOM ist written on the side miror of the prisoners transport

The accused say they don't need back the things that were taken away from them by the police: one flipflop shoe, some plastic bags, some pieces of paper. The judge asked the accused whether they want to get back any of this and one of them said:

I am not missing anything!
I don't expect anything, either!

On this trial day, the lawyers of most of the Somali requested severance of the trial. There is one lawyer who still demands to have additional witnesses heard to prove his client's innocence. Most of the other lawyers want to end the trial as soon as possible, and for their clients to finally know - after two years on remand - how long they will have to spend in a German prison. 

The trial could eitehr be split into three parts: 
  1. the one who still wish witnesses to come (1)
  2. the young ones (3)
  3. the ones that have no witnesses anymore (6)
Or it could be split into two parts:
  1. the one who wants wtinesses to be heard by the court (1)
  2. all others (9)
The court wants to decide until the next trial day 15.2., 9.00 am.

05 February 2012

A Letter to the Families of the Accused

Letter to the mothers, wives, children and families of the Somali men in prison in Hamburg, Germany.

We write this letter although you don't know us and we don't know you. We write to you because we got to know these 10 boys and men on trial, whom you have been missing for two years.

Recently, the prosecutor has asked for long prison sentences for all of the accused. We don't know what the final verdict will be, but each of them have two lawyers who are trying to get the best result for them.

We want to assure you that your people are not completely alone here. We know that they miss you very much. A while ago, we decided to start visiting them. The younger ones have had visits for one year now. Not all of the older ones have been visited yet, but we hope that more people will join us, so that everyone can get visits.

We are a number of individuals who have been attending the trial and who feel a responsibility not to leave the Somali prisoners to themselves. We are not part of any organisation.

We started visiting them because we believe that it is important to show them that they are not alone in this country, a country that is foreign to them and where they were taken against their will. We want to show them that there are people who care.

Right now, the most important thing for them is to be able to talk to you, their families and friends, and we try to support this as much as we can.

We know that we cannot replace you, but we hope to make you feel a little bit more reassured knowing that they have some support here. You are welcome to contact us, and we hope to be able to answer your questions. Please be aware that we don't have any political power or financial means, and we have no influence on the trial or the verdict.

We end this letter wishing you and them that you may see each other again soon.

Hamburg, 5 February 2012

School Presentation about the Trial.

In schools in Germany the pupils  join for some weeks
a professional and acompany and follow the themes and
work that grown ups do.
Joan joined the so called "pirate" Trial , visited the court and
asked herself many questions about the reasons people in Somalia
dont see another possibility than joining the pirates.
For the presentation at the school last week she prepared this
small booklet , introducing her thoughts and experiances.
Pity that inprisonned youth can not be part of such projekts.
An exchange would have been richening for both sides.
A visit to the Theater school performance of:  PARLEZ! produced by the theater group Geiheimagentur
in summer theater festival in Hamburg is also part of the presentation.

03 February 2012

73 day of Trial, Six hours presence for 86 minutes of court.

We definitly think that many " time management experts" would very much enjoy giving some advices to the Court. Here a visual timeline of the court day of the 73 day of Trial.
Yellow- are the times where we all where just waiting.
Green-  the real court times.
All in all 86 minutes of court, spread in a six hours day
Every stop means that the acused are brouhgt away in the prison, the journalist and publik have to wait .

The judge insists on his new program  to start everyday at 8 am.
Altough it was him and the Court who entered at 8.20,  with 20 minutes delay.
Well.. We had noticed already before,  that we are not in England...

While yeasterday the two first lawyers of one acused, could present their final speeches .
Today no lawyer could be heard .

The court started the day anoucing the decisison ( that everyone expected)  that they follow the prosecut,ors proposal and deny both requests of the lawyer of one of the youths to hear as witness the psychiatrists who is
acompaniing the youth since the begining of the trial.
The reasons that he could asure that the younger one is having a very good behaviour in prison, that he is willing to learn, he works and it is obvious that since he is in germany he will not anymore have any reason to do something kriminal.
The court refused to hear the psychiatrist saying that they also take this for granted.
They will decide this and not a psychiatrist they said.

This was also concerning the second of the young ones . Actually the prisons direktor has asured in the past, that all three are behaving so well, that if all prisoners would be like them, they could dismiss half of the people working there.

Next was the refusal to introduce to the laywers and the court, material of the research of the german BKA police.  What one of the lawyers had requested.
This refusal kept the court busy half the day and ended up with the lawyer saying that he doesnt acept this court to be fair and he refuses to continue the trial with them.
It is  another court  who decides about it, during the time the court is unable to continue working.

Its is not the first lawyer and also not the frst time, that the court is denied by the laywers.
 Since it is their own kollegues who decide,  its clear that they always decide that the judges are objektiv and schould continue the court case. The joke is that the judge who was denied by the lawyers reads on his own the decision that he is doing his job well.

some court observers believed that the prosecutor could only pronounce one word:denyed!