18 April 2012

Court Report 16 April 2012 - Interesting developments

The trial is becoming more and more unpredictable. During the last hearing on 16 April, several new situations developed.

First, the judge announced that the defendant who had made an extensive admission on 29 February (defendant 'X') had made another statement to the prosecutor – outside of a public hearing and bypassing the judge. This seems to rumours that have been going around, that the defendant's earlier admission was made in 'co-operation' with the prosecutor. One newspaper today called the defendant the 'crown witness'.

Then a defence lawyer made an application to hear the Dutch navy officer De Wind again. He had interrogated the defendant 'X' on the Dutch frigate Tromp, as well as in Holland. De Wind had declined to reveal the content of the defendant's statements, claiming it was a military secret. 'X'  had stated later that what he was telling the court, he had already told the Dutch navy. De Wind should now be asked to confirm or deny that 'X' had in fact made the same statements to De Wind. This would no longer be subject to military secrecy because the statements had now been made in a public court. If De Wind denies this, then the defendant's credibility is in question.

After that another defence lawyer repeated his application to hear the Indian crew of the dhow Hudhud. The defence had sent someone to India to track down the witnesses. They had spoken to the head of the Vessel Owners Association in the harbour where the Hudhud was registered. There were written records of statements made by the crew to the Owners Association. There were also the names, photos and full addresses of two crew members who were willing to be interviewed in either the German embassy in New Delhi or the consulate in Mumbai. The lawyer told the court that the crew could confirm that his client had been forced at gun point to participate in the attack on the Taipan.

When court resumed after a two hour break, the case took yet another turn, when one of the defendants who had been indicted by 'X' made a statement. He told the court that 'X' had given the court a false name, that he was from a different tribe than what he had claimed and that in fact he had led the attack on the Taipan, which had been organized by his brother, who lived in London.

Then a third defence lawyer made an application to hear the expert witness Stig Hansen from Norway again. Hansen had been heard at the beginning of the trial as an expert on Somalia. Hansen could confirm – by using his network and contacts in Somalia – that 'X' had made false statements regarding his name, his tribal association and his family in Somalia, that he had worked for an organisation which was set up up to protect ships against piracy but later switched sides, that he had been arrested by the French navy in 2008 and was known as a pirate and that during the attack on the Taipan he had played the role which he alleged others had. 

The court will have to consider the three new applications for witnesses. The next planned hearing on Wednesday, 18 April has been cancelled. Therefore the next hearing will be on Tuesday, 24 April.