25 September 2012

Court Report Day 101 – 19 September 2012

The closing address of the second lawyer for one of the under-age defendants which was started at the last date, was continued. The lawyer argued that his client had acted out of pure necessity to survive. He had been seriously under-weight when he arrived in Hamburg. A prison sentence would be reflective of colonial justice which only served the interests of the ship owners.

Next was the defence for the accused who had been named as the alleged leader by the 'crown witness'. They followed up on the previous address by accusing the court of having this trial in order to protect the shipping routes for German merchants. They also raised the question of what purpose a sentence was supposed to serve. They pointed to a fracture in the trial, which according to them had occurred after the Norwegian expert witness Hansen had been heard. From then on the court had refused to approve any witnesses for the defence and had only seemed to be interested in closing the case. The court's refusal to hear a witness from Somalia had been justified with excuses such as that the time frame for a visa application had been unclear or that it was not known whether the witness had been vaccinated.

18 September 2012

Cannon fodder in an undeclared war

Court Report Day 100 – 17 September 2012

Three defence lawyers had, as one of them said, “the dubious honour” to give their closing address on the 100th day of the trial.

First up was the defence for the accused whose son had been kidnapped. The defence quoted from a recent article in the magazine Spiegel which said that the case could not really be tried in Germany. They then explained the situation of the accused and of his family in Somalia and pleaded for the sentence not to exceed four years.

Then the defence for one of the under-age accused spoke. He said that what the West called piracy was seen in Somalia as an act of self-defence against illegal fishing and waste dumping. The aid the West was giving to Somalia was a drop in the bucket and the illegal fishing removed more protein from the Somali diet than the aid delivered. The reputation of piracy in the West was bad because it challenged the capitalist logic of free trade. Many nations were interested in the resources around the Horn of Africa. The Swiss government had described Atalanta as an undeclared war. Was the court trying to justify Atalanta? According to the UN, the illegal fishing had caused one million Somali to flee their country. The European border agency FRONTEX would then ensure that these refugees never reached Europe. This was neocolonialism.

100 days of trial – no reason to celebrate

After 100 long and torturous days in court the trial is finally coming to a close. Today for the 100th time the accused walked trough the tunnel that connects the remand prison with the court building. For the 100th time twenty lawyers assembled, three translators drove long distances to get to court and four jury members left their lives behind and spent up to eight hours in room 337 of the Hamburg criminal court building. And for the 100th time the guards dozed off during the proceedings.

For the 100th time members of the public (including two observers from a shipping company) sat behind the glass separating the public from the court and listened via the speaker system.

12 September 2012

Court Report Day 99 – 7 September 2012

Today four more defence lawyers gave their closing addresses (one other simply referred to his address given in January). This means that 7 of the 20 lawyers have given their addresses.

Lawyers for the defendant claiming to have been hired as a mechanic to repair outboard motors, demanded that the charges against their client be dropped. They argued that the accused came from a social and legal background that was not at all comparable to that in Europe, therefore he couldn't be tried here. Violence, they said, was an everyday occurrence in Somalia, including violence between the different clans – the exact opposite of the legal framework in Germany.

Furthermore, although fish poaching and toxic waste dumping were no longer the immediate reasons for piracy, piracy was caused by them. For that reason, piracy was well accepted and seen as legitimate within large parts of the population, unlike in Germany.

Trial dates cancelled

The scheduled trial dates for 12th and 14th September have been cancelled. The next date will be Monday, 17 September 2012, 9 am.

07 September 2012

Day 98: Trial ending – prosecution has given closing address

Court Report Day 98 – 6 September 2012

First, the court declined the pending application from yesterday to require the prosecution to supply the minutes of the conversations they have had with the 'crown witness'. One of the defence lawyers then announced that they had filed an appeal with the higher court (Oberlandesgericht) and demanded that the trial be paused. This also was declined by the judge who simply proceeded and announced that all the evidence had been heard and that the court would now hear the closing addresses.

Then the prosecutor gave his closing address – in record time of about half an hour. He demanded the same sentences as in February, the only change was that the 'crown witness' should be given two years less, which should be added to the alleged 'ring leader'. This would mean between four and five and a half years for the under-age defendants and between six ('crown witness') and twelve years ('ring leader') for the others. 

After lunch the defence for the youngest accused gave their closing address. They pointed to the dubious methods of age assessment and to the personal circumstances of the defendant, who had been born in a refugee camp, had lost his father and had participated in the attack on the Taipan so he could feed his mother and his siblings. They also criticised the prosecution for not taking into account the positive development of the accused since he has been in Germany. They asked for a maximum penalty of two years, which would have been served by the time spent in custody.

The closing addresses will be continued Friday, 7 September 2012, 9 am.

06 September 2012

Court Report Day 97 – 5 September 2012

Today, the prosecution admitted having spoken with the 'crown witness' outside of the court hearings - something the prosecutor had so far refused to comment on. He would, however, not say how many of these conversations had taken place and what the subject had been, stating only that it had nothing to do with the current trial.

An application by the defence to the court to formally request the minutes of these conversations was declined. A second application, asking the court to find out if the prosecution had promised anything to the 'crown witness' will be decided at the next hearing. The defence lawyer argued that the question of credibility was crucial, because it was effectively the word of the 'crown witness' against the word of the other accused.

The lawyer continued to argue that the only subject of value to the prosecution which the 'crown witness' would have been able to talk about was the organisational structure of the Somali pirates – which would prove his leadership role in the attack.

03 September 2012

Court Report Day 96 – 30 August 2012

As expected, the bail applications from the last hearing were declined. In one case, the defence appealed the decision, but it was upheld.

Then followed an almost enthusiastic report from the representative of the youth court aid about the three under-age defendants who have been living in a youth facility since April. According to everyone involved, their “politeness, reliability and eagerness to learn are exemplary”. They were also looking after each other and getting on well with everyone. They were, however, deeply worried about their families in Somalia.

Then one of the defence lawyers announced that – unbeknownst to the prosecution or the court – his client had been visited by two police officers and a translator. The defendant had refused to talk to them, so they had left. The prison's visitor book showed no entries, therefore the lawyer applied to ascertain the names of the officers. This was declined by the judge.

Another application to hear the uncle of the “crown witness” who supposedly could confirm or deny some of his statements will be decided by the next hearing.

Next date: Wednesday, 5 September, 9 am

01 September 2012

Pirate training in full swing at Lake Constance

At this camp ground at Lake Constance, young aspiring pirates are well catered for. The special “Pirates' Nest” crèche is available for any one over 4 years old and certain areas of the camp ground are reserved for pirates. 

Other forms of theft are also encouraged with this offer of a “Thieve's Platter” which children fill from their parents' plates.

Trial date cancelled

The scheduled trial date on 31 August 2012 was cancelled. The next date is Wednesday, 5 September at 9:00 am.