17 February 2013

Letter to the public - Release of the child of one of the accused.

While the written verdict and sentence have only just now – almost three months after the verbal sentence has been passed (*) – been received by the lawyers, the child of one of the prisoners is free! It was released with the money raised from the sale of the booklet about the kidnapping.

The verbal sentencing took place in November 2012. With the exception of the 'crown witness', all of the accused filed an appeal. However, the experience of spending two years in remand prison had its effect on the prisoners, and their wish for better conditions in a 'normal' prison was greater, so by and by they withdrew their appeals. Currently, only two of the then juvenile prisoners still have an appeal going.

The court remained true to its tradition and took almost three months to release the written sentence, while the verbal sentence had been published on reclaim-the-seas.blogspot.com for weeks – transcribed word for word by trial observers. 

With the verdict having been received formally by the lawyers, they now have one month to argue their appeal. One could have the impression that the court deliberately waited until the defendants had withdrawn their appeals, public interest in the trial had disappeared and the media had lost interest.

But there is one positive development that could still be of public interest: the release of the child of one of the accused.

He had told the court how he failed to catch fish any more, was in debt with a grocery store owner and how the shop owner then abducted his 5-year-old son in order to retrieve the money. That is why he had joined the attack on the Taipan - to earn the money to release his son.

In 2012, the solidarity group produced an illustrated booklet with the story. 380 signed copies of the book were sold for €5 each. The money was used to pay the ransom for the child, while the prisoner was desperately waiting in his prison cell.

In December 2012, enough money was collected and in January the money was handed over to the shop owner and subsequently the child was released. The seemingly impossible had been made possible.

The release of the child confirms how arrogant the court has been in its attitude towards the defendants. The judge had accused the defendant of lying about his child because he had not repeated the story during his last words in court. 

Here is some advice for the court: fortunately, there is a life outside the courtroom. In this other life, the defendant knew that money was being collected for the release of his child. That is why he didn't see the need to mention it again. He had given up hope of being understood by the court.

Instead, there are people outside the court world who don't want to leave the prisoners to themselves. The group that has been observing the trial is planning further public meetings, harbour cruises, public displays and film screenings, and will continue to sell the booklet in order to support the prisoners and to talk about the situation in Somalia.

The Prisoner Support Group, No One Is Illegal Hamburg, Third World Harbour Group Hamburg.


(*) In German courts, the verdict and sentence are first passed verbally and then the written version is sent to the lawyers soon afterwards. For this to take several months is highly unsusual.