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.
The Dutch authorities did not charge the defendants there due to legal problems because they had not been presented to a judge within 48 hours of their arrest. The German court had circumvented this hurdle by not counting the time the defendants had been in Dutch custody. They had been apprehended on the Tromp without any legal basis and had not been presented to a judge for two weeks.

In addition, the kidnapping and ransom demand did not actually take place, therefore the charges should be treated as less severe. In particular, their client had been hired as a motor mechanic and only realised what he was in for when he was in the open sea. At that point he no longer had a choice; had he refused, he would have been killed. The prosecution's argument that his statement had come too late in the proceedings was invalid because it ignored the fact that the defendant required time to understand how the German legal system worked. The defendant originally did not know what the role of his lawyer was and had taken a long time to develop trust in them.

The defence complained about the lack of acknowledgement of the defendant's statements. His statements relating to fishing companies and the motor workshop where he had worked had all turned out to be correct. It was therefore unjustified that the prosecution placed more value on the statements of the 'crown witness' than on him. It was no accident that the 'crown witness' had implicated those two accused the most who hadn't made a statement in court at that stage. The 'crown witness' had found himself in the situation where the Indian witnesses would have implicated him and had decided that attack was the best defence.

The defence for the 'crown witness' also gave their closing address. Their client also had acted out of destitution. He had admitted his guilt – which role he played was now up to the court to determine. The prosecution had already stated that none of the accused had been involved in the planning. That was also true for their client who had admitted being armed but not having used his gun against persons. His role had been that of a translator, therefore he had been the first to enter the Taipan.

He had provided valuable and at that time unknown information to the Dutch intelligence service, which had already been used around the Horn of Africa. He had made extensive statements here regarding this trial and also “in another matter”. His statements had solved and prevented further crimes. The Dutch officers had promised him to let him go, but broke that promise and extradited him to Germany. He had then decided to give extensive statements to the court and as a result was isolated, which had led to depressions. The defence pleaded for a sentence of two to four years.

The trial continues on Monday, 17 September, 9am - the 100th court day!