24 May 2012

Court Report Day 88 - 23.5.12

Court Report Day 88 – 23 May 2012

Today, the Indian journalist working for german television ARD, who was announced yesterday, appeared and gave evidence. He had been called in at short notice, when the German federal police had told the court last week that he had been in Salaya and had interviewed two of the crew from the dhow Hudhud.

He said the reason why the crew didn't want to appear in court themselves was not because they were afraid of coming to Germany but because they wanted to leave these events behind. The judge thanked the journalist for taking the unusual step of sharing his research with the court.

First, the court wanted to be sure that they were talking about the same people, so two photos were shown to identify the crew members.

When the judge asked, the journalist mentioned two names of people who were behind the attack on the Taipan. However, when asked about the name of the defendant, whose relatives had been involved, he said that he had been given two more names in the last couple of days and that he didn't want to falsely accuse anyone. Should the judge ask again in a few days, it was likely that different names would come up.

While in India, the journalist had read in Times of India about the two crew members being in Salaya, so he decided to interview them. But he said, he wasn't alone with the two, at times there had been up to 40 other people in the room, who had just dropped in (“there is not much happening in Salaya”). He had about half an hour of raw video footage, which will be shown at the next court hearing. When asked if the interviewees knew that they were being filmed and that the material was going to be published, he said he assumed so. He repeatedly described them as 'simple people', who didn't tell a lot of details.

The crew had been upset about being held captive by other Muslims. True Muslims wouldn't do that to each other. They had been threatened and had  to sleep all  in one room, but had not been harmed physically. They had been told that they would be freed once the Somali had successfully captured a ship. The capturing of the Taipan obviously failed, so they had to wait until another ship had been hijacked and after that they were released. In the meantime they had been fishing. The judge seemed a little confused at this because the Hudhud had been described as a coal carrier, but the journalist told him that it wasn't unusual to also trade in fish.

According to the two crew members, the Somali had spent a lot of time on the phone, talking to their families, who kept asking when they would return, and about the ransom money. To us, this raises the question of how the Indian crew would know the content of the phone calls, unless they spoke Somali, which had never been mentioned before. However, no one in the court room asked about it.

The journalist emphasized that he himself had never initiated contact with the FBI or the German police, instead they had contacted him several times, especially after a colleague of his had been kidnapped in Somalia in January.

He stated that apparently some of the conversations he had had with the German police had not been recorded correctly and this way some incorrect information had been reported in the German media recently.

The only question asked by the defence was whether he had given the name of the 'crown witness' to the German police. He was indignant and vehemently denied this.

The hearing was then adjourned because one of the defendants was suffering from severe headache and had to see a doctor. The next planned trial date on 25. May has been cancelled due to the unavailability of the journalist. The next date will be the 4th of June, where the video footage of the interviews will be shown.