27 April 2012

Court Report 84 Day - 27.4.12.

Today the judge presented the notes he took of two telefon calls, made yeasterday, with 2 Indian seamen of the crew of the Dhow Hurtrut .
The fonecalls had the purpose to see if the two seamen are willing and have important informations to be presented as witnesses in the Trial.

Both people expalined that they are not willing to come to Germany as withnesses , that they are rather scared to be witness in such a trial , that they anyway would not recognize anyone.
The offer the judge made, to be questioned in Mumbay or in New Dehli will be answered tomorow by both, aftre they diskuss about it with their families.

Then the acused person who has been naming and acusing all others,during the last court days, made a statement presenting all what he had talked some week ago, with the prosecutor .

He said:" I was willing to say to the Germans the same things i had said to the Durch marines."
And presented the details about how 7 of the somalis took part in the capture of the Dhow with the indian seamen, how they tried to attack a ship , how a german military ship came and forced them to return to somalian waters, following them till there and how then the last 3 of the now acused people, came on bord .

With this statement he saved the prosecutors image who would have been obliged to answer questions about the conversation, in Court.

25 April 2012

Court report 83 day: 24.04.12: This court can only judge about the assault of Taipan.

Ageexpert forentik professor takes back first expertise on scars made by his Institut, puting the mistake on the acused.

The expert on deciding the age of minors Prof Puschel direktor of the forentik institut in the University Hospital in Hamburg, famous for his  colonialistik methods of expertising the age of young people, talked after having checked the one acused in his body to experise if the scars he has, have been produced by shootings. The check up made last saturday,  again without any translator, "proved" that all scars are not produced by shooting. So the first expertise made by the same institut two years ago, is proved false.It sayd that it was scars from gunshooting,
Now the professor says its the mistake of the acused himself, saying that actually he himself only had signed the expertise but one of his young kollegues made it and he presumes that the kollege wrote what the acused told him: that it was scars from gun shootings. Last saturday the acused (without translator) told him: the scars come from car accidents and skin diceases..

Court discusses if the talking between prosecutor and acused, that resuleted to even more acusations of all other acused people made by the key witness, is part of this trial. They havent come to a finnal decision but explained very clearly their thoughts about it.If the acused is not willing to answer questions about this talk, then the prosecutor will be asked questions by the court!

The acused in his talk with the prosecutor acused others of hijaking the mothership Hutrut and other ships before. Also he acused others of having taken the indian fisher of the Hutrut as hostage.
But  taking hostages doesnt belong to the prinizips trialed in Weltrecht.(World right?)

This court can only judge about the assault of Taipan , said the judge. This was the delivery reason of the 10 acused.

All other acusations might be relevant for the german justice, but judging this should be done by another court.
Taking Hostages  is a strong criminal act in german justice system, but doesnt belong the the WELTRECHT prizip, so its not this courts responsability. All this thoughts are spoken in court but nor written (mündliche vorläufige einschätzung).

Then the judge explained that the concurrance of offences is not fullfiled, because there was a longer time between the diferent actions,  which the acusing acused,  talked to the prosecutor.

The acused, who is since sometime acusing everybody else, and one might get the impression that he is cooperating with the prosecutor, had anouced that he wants to make a statement about the facts two other people said about him, his naming false names and the fact that he belongs to well known family of pirates.

But then sudenly he decided not to make a statement but "only" answer questions .
Which was not much better. He rejected all acusations and informations, the two lawyers had said about his real identity, using always  the same argument: all other acused (whom he has named and acused ) lie because all are against him.

Of great interest was the fact that he  was able to name all birthplaces of all other 9 acused people in full detail and also the places they used to live before going to the Taipan !

New trial dates up to August 2012!

The court anounced that there are new trial dates up to August 2012.
All dates staring 8.30 to 16.30.
except: 30.07.starting13.00
31.08. finishing 12.00

June 2012
mo 04.06.
we 06.06.
thu 14.06.
fri 15.06.
thu 21.06.

July 2012
thu 12.07.
mo 30.07. starting 13.00

August 2012
thu 30.08.
fri 31.08. finishing 12.00

20 April 2012

Bankruptcy of a Trial

After 18 months and more than 80 trial dates, judge Steinmetz proclaimed that there were yet more surprises in this trial. The fact itself seems surprising – one would assume that after all this time, and after the prosecution had already made its closing statement, everything that could possibly be said had been said and that every fact had been presented and examined by the court. But maybe it's not so surprising.

The situation the court finds itself in now, where the court is now faced with new evidential applications after everything seemed to have come to a close twice, is the result of the approach the court has taken throughout the trial. The court has attempted to judge an event that took place off the coast of Somalia, by Somali people, from within the context of the German judicial system. One of the manifestations of this is the fact that the court has consistently relied on European expert witnesses and has denied the defence the opportunity of calling witnesses from Somalia.

The approach to judge the events that led to the attack on the Taipan by peeking with German eyes through a keyhole at the reality of life in Somalia has failed. The attempt to find an absolute truth within the binary true/false logic of European thinking has led to the bankruptcy of this trial.

The question is, will judge Steinmetz realise this, and if he does, what will the consequences be?

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.

13 April 2012

Juvenile accused are out on bail!

After two years in custody, the three under-age defendants have today been finally released on bail – a step that was long overdue. While most German juvenile accused are usually released after a few months, these three have been detained since Easter, 2010.  Until now, the court had rejected all applications for a release on bail, despite the fact that a youth facility has been available for some time and despite a very positive report from the prison management.

The three are now in a youth facility where they have enjoyed their first day of freedom. We are asking the media to respect their wish for privacy.

The trial will continue on Monday, 16 April. The next trial date after that is Wednesday, 18 April (additional date).

06 April 2012

Court Report 05 April - Broken Windows

Day 81 – Court Report 05 April 2012

More retractions and more admissions, gun shot wounds that aren't any and a broken window.

Today, the interrogation of the accused who had made a full admission was wrapped up. Back in May, 2011 the defendant had presented a document issued by a court in Somalia. The document testified that his mother had lodged a complaint against two people, alleging that they had forced the defendant at gun point to participate in the attack on the Taipan. The judge wanted to know how he knew that the document was authentic. He answered that he believed so because his mother had sent it, however, his parents must have misunderstood – he had not been forced. When asked whether he had ever clarified this misunderstanding, he declined.

Then judge also wanted to know about two gunshot wounds in the legs that had been identified by the Dutch medical practitioner who had examined him. At first, the defendant said that he had received them on board the Taipan. When the judge expressed his astonishment, the defendant claimed that they weren't gun shot wounds at all and offered to be examined on the spot.

Then he told the court that he had boarded the dhow Hudhud earlier than what he had preciously told the court.

Then the nicknames that the defendant had given to the court at the previous hearing were matched against the address books of the cell phones that were seized. This involved the judge reading out endless rows of phone numbers.

After lunch it got more interesting again. The defendant had stated that he and the others had entered the bridge through a broken window. The prosecutor now wanted to know exactly which window was used. For this purpose a sketch of the bridge, as well as several photos from inside and outside the bridge were shown and the defendant was asked to point at the right window. This took a while but he finally pointed at a window with an oval hole in it, about half a metre wide and a metre tall, with glass all around it. It is the rightmost window on this photo. When this was established, another lawyer asked how the defendant had managed to get through the hole since it seemed rather small. However, the judge wasn't interested in this question. So the question which window was used is of utmost importance, but the question how the defendant managed to squeeze through a hole in the glass without getting injured is irrelevant. Sometimes it's hard to understand the justice system...

Finally, the judge stated that, if there were no more applications, the court could proceed to the closing statements. So an end could be in sight.

Next trial date: Monday, 16 April 2012, 8 am.

05 April 2012

Addressee unknown

Now we understand why the court doesn't believe that it is possible to invite witnesses from India or Somalia to Germany.

Even the Hamburg remand prison is unable to deliver a letter despite there being a quite stringent 'registration system' - something the court said was missing in Somalia and therefore it was hopeless to try and serve a summons there. We received this photo of three letters to a prisoner which were returned to the sender with the remark that the person was not known at this address, although the full name (the surname was covered for the photo) and correct address were given.

Investigations with the prison post office revealed that the name was missing a 'c' and therefore the computer didn't recognise the name. The spelling used on the envelopes was the spelling used in the official court records that were published at the beginning of the trial. Somewhere along the line, the court has discovered that the name was spelled incorrectly and decided to change it.

This is something that happens to a lot of refugees, when their names are recorded without a translator being present.

One question remains: when it comes to the verdict, who will be sentenced? If the court uses the original spelling, the prison administration won't be able to find the prisoner. If the court uses the new spelling, the name won't match the person that was arrested.