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!