04 May 2012

A relaxed judge

During the last couple of court hearings, the presiding judge Steinmetz seemed remarkably relaxed.
For months he has been pushing to bring the trial to an end. Every time the defence made a submission, he was annoyed; every delay irritated him. Then, on day 84, he finished at midday with the words “we have no programme left for today” - as if this was some sort of theatre rehearsal. And this Wednesday, the hearing lasted only one and a half hours before the judge finished and cancelled the following hearing. All this in a trial with 20 lawyers and three interpreters, some of whom travel almost a thousand kilometres for every court appearance.

Somehow, the judge does not appear to be in a hurry to bring the trial to a close any more. Some of those observing the trial wonder what prompted this change in attitude. Several possibilities come to mind. Maybe it was the release of the three juvenile defendants - the court had been criticised for keeping them in custody for so long. Or is it the fact that the German parliament is about to make a decision on expanding the Atalanta mission to go on land. Is the trial not supposed to end before that decision has been made? Or does the court need more time to prepare the verdicts – but isn't 18 months enough time?

In the meantime, some people consider applying to the Guinness Book of Records to have the trial registered as the longest running 'piracy trial' in history...