Reports from Court

The torture continues
Report from 31. August 2011

The Norwegian Somalia expert Stieg Hansen gave evidence, for the fifth time.
While he was interviewed by one of the defence lawyers, one of the defendants complained about pain in his ears and took his headphones off. The judge immediately demanded he put them back on and sit so that “it is apparent that you are listening”. The defendant then started crying. The judge went as far as claiming that the continuing interruptions were also disturbing the defence lawyer. However, the lawyer refused to continue the interview. The lawyer for the defendant with ear pain then argued that all of the accused were suffering from psycho-somatic disorders due to the length of the trial and that it was not sufficient for them to be examined by a general practitioner with no experience in psychology or psychiatry, who then finds them fit for trial.
Still, that is exactly what happened – the defendant was led to the doctor and after a lengthy break, the judge received a phone call and announced that the defendant had bee found fit to stand trial. For the next day, a practitioner would be present all the time.

But the young Somali had not just complained about ear-aches but also didn't want to wear his head phones anymore because “nothing made any sense”. The proceedings were taking so long, he couldn't continue anymore.

Hansen was then asked whether he would consider the Somali diaspora in Germany to be 'criminal'. This was in reference to the judge declining the applications for bail with the argument that Somalis in Germany could aid and abet the flight of the accused. Judge Steinmetz took issue with that and declared that there had been no intention to criminalize anyone, to which the lawyer replied that the only way to prove that was to grant bail.

Hansen will appear again on Friday, 2. September.

29 August 2011.
The last few of days in court were spent hearing a psychologist from the youth authorities on the condition of one of the accused. The recurring theme with this affidavit and the defendants' own statements appears to be the fear of the accused for their families in Somalia, exacerbated by them being imprisoned and unable to help.

An expert witness aims the laser pointer at the panel of judges

Several trial dates in the last couple of weeks have been cancelled. The new dates have been set as follows:

Wed, 31. August
Thu, 01. September
Fri, 02. September
Mon, 26. September
Tue, 04. October
Wed, 05. October
Tue, 18. October
Wed, 19. October
Thu, 27. October
Fri, 28. October
Mon, 31. October
Wed, 02. November
Fri, 04. November
Tue, 08. November
Wed, 09. November
Mon, 14. November
Tue, 15. November
Mon, 21. November
Fri, 26. November
Tue, 29. November
Wed, 30. November

Court rejects stay application
On August, 25., the court decided to reject the application for a stay of proceedings. The application had been made by the defence on the basis that there were insufficient legal grounds for the arrests and that the accused were not treated according to German, Dutch and international law.

In its reasons, the court stated that the basis for the arrest was Section 105 of UN Maritime Law, and that even if the accused were not treated in accordance with Dutch law, this was not sufficient reason to stop the trial.

"What should I answer - I don't understand"
Court is taking a break over summer. The trial will resume on August 15.

At the last hearing on 15 July, the lawyer for the youngest accused filed an application for the stay of proceedings, which several of the other lawyers joined. The basis is that the accused were held for several days in captivity before being presented before a judge. According to both Dutch and German laws, when a person is arrested, they must appear before a judge within 48 hours. This was clearly not the case, as the accused were held and interviewed on the Dutch frigate Tromp for several days. The decision on this is reserved.

The recent trial dates have been characterised by two things: the audacity with which European 'Somalia experts' judge the situation of the accused and also the deteriorating medical condition of some of the accused. Frequently one of them, X takes his headphones off and states that he can't understand what's going on. He has been taken to a medical practitioner several times during lunch breaks with the result that the practitioner found him to be fit to stand trial. X, on the other hand is so confused when he comes back, he can hardly remember the visit.

In a particularly bizarre exchange the judge revealed his sense of logic:
X: I can't understand you
Judge: Can you hear me?
X: I can hear but I can't understand
Judge: But you understood my question.
X: I don't understand anything
Judge: Can you hear the words?
X: What should I answer - I don't understand.
Judge: I'm asking myself how you can reply to me if you don't understand.
It's torturous even listening to this.

One of the key questions in the trial is the question of 'mens rea' ('guilty knowledge'). Were the accused acting knowing that what they did was punishable? Again, all this is determined from a European viewpoint. The system beggars belief: the same court system, which let some of the worst mass murderers in history off unpunished precisely because it couldn't be proved that they were acting in the knowledge that sending people to the gas chambers was wrong, is passing judgement on this ability in Somali teenagers.

There are also applications pending on the release on bail for the 3 youngest accused, who are currently held in custody in a youth prison. The lawyers argue that the flight risk – the main reason for them being detained – is not a real risk, because none of them have neither a passport nor the means to travel and with the current drought and famine, Somalia is hardly an attractive destination. As one of the lawyers put it: no German teenager who is accused of a crime where no one was injured (except a Dutch soldier who broke his ankle while abseiling from a helicopter) would be held in custody for that length of time. Also, being minors, the 15 months of detention are already a significant part of the maximum penalty they might be facing if convicted. In other words, they have already served half their possible sentence.

Summary of 18 May 2011

Prof Matthies, the German Somalia "expert" was on the stand again and questioned by the defence. To start with, the judge declines an application by the defence to have some additional info which was introduced by Matthies translated into Somali. The reason being that the language of teh court is German. Later on, Somali is spoken in court because the microphones and headphones fail.

Matthies revises some fo his statements from last time and admits that anyone growing up in Somalia would like be traumatised. The questions by the defence prompt him to give a more complete picture of Somalia than his origianl account. When asked for a historic parallel of the situation in Somalia, Matthies mentions the 30-year war. He says that piracy is partially in the hand of the clans and that press gangs might be operating from Kenia.

The defence applies to hear the mother and sister of the accused whose brother was killed – decision reserved.

There had been a request by the court to the Dutch prosecution to provide the videos of the interrogations on the Tromp was declined because it would put the Dutch officers at risk.

And finally the application for bail for one of the younger accused was declined due to flight risk.

Summary of 04 May 2011
Judge Steinmetz seems to be aiming for a world record in declining objections from the defence. One of the accused is having a breakdown but the court-appointed doctor declares him fit for the hearing. Witness de Wind (Dutch navy officer) appears for the 5th time and finds out that he is now being charged: the defence have pressed charges of negligence leading to death against de Wind for his statement in court, in which he identified one of the accused has having made statements on board the Tromp. The brother of the accused was murdered in Somalia a few days later. The statements were classified as secret by the Dutch navy. The defence argues that De Wind should have known that him identifying the accused publicly in court would endanger his family, therefore his behaviour was grossly negligent.

Report from 20 April 2011

German Professor Volker Matthies appeared as an expert witness to explain the situation in Somalia. The fact that he hadn't been to Somalia in the last 20 years didn't stop him from explaining his theories about:

* Piracy and the decline of the State
* Piracy and the economic situation in Somalia
* Piracy in relation to the international organisations and companies.

He declares that his information comes from NGOs and media reports. The judge explains that it had been very hard to find experts on the subject.
Everything Matthies said has been said many times and better in public talks on the subject. We therefore won't repeat it here.

11 April 2011

Weapons live and in colour, another police witness, applications by the defence and court decisions.

First up, a display of weapons that were found on the Taipan and which had been shown on photos: RPGs, AK47s, pistols , ammunition and cell phones. Every item is held up for everyone to see, especially the cell phones, which appear to be very dangerous. No one has any questions so all the guns are packed away again, a process for which the court room has to be cleared.

Then the defence raises an objection against the ruling not to obtain a psychological expertise about one of the defendants. The court had ruled that it had sufficient expert knowledge, therefore no outside expert was needed. The defence questions that. The defendant's psychological condition has been worsening.

Then another witness from the German federal criminal office (BKA), Karsten Klenke, 37. He inspected the Taipan together with officer Walter, who had already given evidence. There is talk about damage to aerials and a box of spark plugs (the argument being that anyone who carries a spare set of spark plugs obviously doesn't have “high tech equipment”, as the prosecution alleges).

The prosecution then asks whether Klenke had tested for copper residue near the bullet holes (which apparently indicates the type of ammunition). Klenke keeps saying that he was there to do a photo documentation, not a forensic analysis. It remains unclear why he took photos of some things but not of others.

After lunch the judge announces his decision about the admissibility of the statements that some of the accused made on the Tromp. In short: the fact that the accused weren't told their rights is a violation of German, Dutch and international law. However, since this took place on a Dutch ship, the Dutch courts would have to decide about that. In German law, these statements can nevertheless be introduced into the proceedings until objections are raised. This is further complicated by the fact that each defendant can only object to their own statement being used, not to that of the others, although the statements can affect all defendants.

The defence objects to this ruling and the judge acknowledges that this issue is utterly important and therefore the chamber will consider the objection.

In the meantime one defence counsel noted that his client has been unable to follow the proceedings for the last hour and is refusing to put his head phones back on. The judge finds this unacceptable and declines this modest request for a break from the barrage of legal jargon, which no doubt would have been impossible to translate into Somali. This despite the fact that the guards have been allowed to sleep through the afternoon.

04 April 2011
The commander of the Dutch helicopter, H.W.M. Veldhuizen gave evidence about the mission to board the Taipan. Lots of detailed questions were asked about the ratio of live ammunition to tracer ammunition, the range of the helicopter depending on air temperature and payload, etc. 3 communication channels existed between the Tromp, the helicopter and another surveillance plane. Some communication transcripts were read out. From that it appears that at some stage the helicopter was ordered to gain height because the Tromp was about to fire shots from a 40 mm gun at the Taipan.  

30 March 2011
Today, the team leader of the special commando on board the Tromp gave evidence. He appeared under the pseudonym “Jeffrey” and was wearing make-up, a wig and a false moustache. The judges asked several questions regarding the type of ammunition that was used. He stated that only .50, 7.62 and 9mm were used.

The defence then questioned “Jeffrey”at length about the interviews the accused were subjected to on the Tromp. It turns out that either he can't remember or he's not allowed to say. Apparently he was in charge of the of security during the interviews and therefore witnessed some of them. However, he couldn't remember anything that was said or how long the interviews went. He's not allowed to say how many security personnel were there and he can't remember who signed the minutes. There are apparently no records of who worked on which day. It seems impossible to get anything out of this witness. 

Day 22 – 28 March 2011
A representative for the owners of the MV Taipan, Olaf Höger gave evidence.

He explains how the system works: the company, Komroswki own the vessel and are in charge of the crew. They hire the ship out to a charter company who then are in charge of the cargo and the fuel. The ship was sailing under German flag. Since the events of April 2010, the ship has been sailing under Liberian flag because then it is possible to have armed guards on board (this is prohibited by German law). The flags are often chosen according to the route – e.g. an Israeli flagged ship can't travel to Arab countries.

He talks about getting a phone call on Easter morning from the captain of the Taipan, which triggered the chain of events. It was up to the captain of the ship to decide the course of action on the ship. The general directive was to be defensive, i.e. retract to the safe room and shut the door. There were no weapons on board.

The events have had an impact on the company – they would like to avoid the route but are bound by charter contracts. Or they take armed guards on board. They have difficulty finding crew members for the German flagged ships, where nor guards are allowed. But even with guards, a lot of crew aren't willing to take the risk. The armed guards had become “a whole new industry”, which charges between US$ 60,000 and 100,000 per passage. The company was paying US$ 25,000 for kidnap and ransom insurance for each passage.

Day 21 – 23 March 2011
A lesson in weaponry with cream. The front is where it looks like the back.

Expert witness on weapons: M. Bernstein from the Federal Criminal Office (BKA)

Bernstein had been charged with evaluating the photos of the Taipan with regards to the type of guns and ammunition used. In particular, the court is interested in establishing whether the accused used an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) to attack the Taipan.

He explains the details of an RPG: 85 mm diameter, maximum distance 300 m, velocity 140 m/sec. It consists of a head and the engine, which have to be screwed together. The front end is the piece that looks like it's the rear end. He explains how it works: “The effect of the head hitting metal is similar to a water jet hitting a pot of cream.”

The judge refers to the statement of the first officer of the Taipan who had stated that he saw an RPG enter the bridge through one window and exit through another, and wants to know whether that is possible. Bernstein considers it a remote possibility, but not likely. But after looking at a photo of the Taipan taken from a small boat, he states that, due to the distance and the angle, it would have been almost impossible to launch an RPG at the bridge in a way that it would enter and exit in the way described. As the interview progresses, Bernstein sees more and more reasons why it is unlikely that an RPG was fired: the type of damage, the number of bullet holes, etc.

After the witness is finished, the defence submits two applications, which are both declined. One is for a psychological expertise for one of the defendants and the other to reject the use of the statements made by some of the defendants while they were in custody of the Dutch navy. The judge always finds a reason to reject applications by the defence. Maybe the defence lawyers should adopt reverse psychology and apply for the opposite of what they want.

Coming up:
28.3. Witness Höckert from the ship owner company re. the damage on the Taipan.
30.3. Witness Feldhusen, helicopter commander
11.4. Witness Klenke
13.4. Witness Mathies re. living conditions in Somalia

Day 20 – 09 March 2011
Dutch Navy Officer de Vind gave evidence again. It turned out that one of the accused had made extensive statements about the background network of pirates in Somalia when questioned on the Tromp. The statements were “only for Dutch eyes” and otherwise secret.

De Vind insisted on calling the interrogations “voluntary statements”, although he had to admit that the person being interviewed was chained to a chair. He claimed that the purpose of the interviews was to gain military information, not to gain evidence for a prosecution.

The judge announced that de Vind might have to appear for a fourth time.

Day 19 – 28 February 2011
Today Detective B. Walther from the German Federal Criminal Office (BKA) is giving evidence.

Walther only has limited permission to give evidence, which means that he can't answer questions relating to operational matters.

He and a colleague had travelled to Dubai in order to secure evidence on the Taipan. They accompanied a team of the Dubai police on board on three days in April 2010. The Dubai police collected the evidence, Walther and his colleague just documented it. At one stage they used metal rods, which they pushed through bullet holes in order to determine the angle of the shots.

According to Walther, the majority of the damage was the result of gun fire, and mainly around the bridge. There were also blood stains and naked foot prints. Some of the damage had been repaired temporarily. They had contact to the crew, who continued to give them pieces of evidence, which Walther handed over to the Dubai police.

They did not examine any of the weapons on site. That only happened after they had been sent to Germany. By that time it was no longer possible to take fingerprints because Dutch crew had handled them without gloves and the guns were all rusty from being exposed to sea air. The weapons were: 5 machine guns, 2 rocket propelled grenades (RPG), 2 hand guns, 2 knives and one cricket bat.

The photos the two German police officers took are shown on monitors in the court room. The judge notes that there are no photos of damage from large calibre weapons, like RPGs, which were shown to the court by the second officer of the Taipan. When asked why they didn't document these significant damages, Walther replies that it wasn't part of their brief.

Day 18 – 23 February 2011
The age report for the youngest defendant is read out. The x-ray examination has resulted in an estimated age of 12 - 23 years (+/- 2 years). The analysis of wisdom teeth has resulted in an estimate of 25 years of age.

Then a psychological report about the defendant is read out, which says that he is mature enough to distinguish right from wrong and to act accordingly. The result is that he no longer gets bail.

Defence counsel Jung submits an application to dismiss the work of the expert witness Dr Fuhrmann, who was involved in the process of age determination. Furhmann had described in a public newsletter in 2002 how to write a report about a person's age in a way that makes it hard to be challenged in court. A report should be written in a way that removes any doubt about the procedures, in order to ensure the integrity of the expert. For the defence, this proves that the aim was not to establish the correct age of the accused but rather to defend the expertise. Monetary gain was the driving motive.

The minutes of the hearing in June was read out, in which the defendants complain about being locked in single cells. In Holland, and even on the Dutch frigate, they were kept together. They experienced the isolation as special hardship.

The defence also point out that the accused have fear of being executed in Germany, and ask the judge to explain officially that there is no capital punishment in German law in order to remove their fears.

Day 17 – 07 February 2011
Today Dutch navy officer Jeffrey, who was in charge of the intervention on the 05.04 on the Taipan gives evidence. He reports the events and identifies some of the accused he arrested on board. He was first questioned by the judge and then by some lawyers.
The day starts with the judge reading out an exchange between himself and the Dutch state prosecutor, Ms. Bann, regarding the conditions under which Dutch military personnel can give evidence in court in Hamburg. The judge had wanted to know why the Dutch captain Lodder, who had given evidence on day 14 and 16 of the trial, hadn't been able to answer some questions. Ms Bann replied by stating that questions of operational matters would be covered by military regulations and answering them would be a criminal offence. Those questions should be submitted in writing to the Dutch defence ministry.

Jeffrey is accompanied by an interpreter (like captain Lodder, he gives evidence in Dutch), a representative of the Dutch defence ministry and another navy officer. He sums up the operation:

He was alerted on 5 April 2010 of the take-over of a ship. The crew were reported to be in the safe room. He discussed the options with the commander. He was in favour of an intervention. The commander checked with the Dutch and the German
government - both agreed. The team landed on the Taipan with a helicopter and went to the bridge. 6 of the accused were immediately arrested and the rest came out by and by. It took a long time before the crew came out.

Jeffrey was in command of the operation, which was run from the Dutch frigate Tromp. He was in the helicopter and saw shots fired both from the helicopter and the Tromp. He doesn't remember shots being fired from the Taipan. One of the Dutch soldiers was injured when he abseiled from the helicopter. The team forced several doors open, in some cases by firing at them.

The judge refers to Jeffrey's written statement, in which he says that he had recognized one of the arrested from a previous arrest a few weeks earlier. Jeffrey identifies one of the accused in the court room. The previous arrest had come about when the Tromp had been notified of a suspected pirate skiff. Jeffrey had arrested the people on board the skiff and detained them on the Tromp for a week. Then they released them due to lack of evidence.

The lawyer for the accused who had previously been arrested then questions Jeffrey. Jeffrey confirms that the previous operation (on 15 March) was under the ATALANTA mandate. There were smaller skiffs who Jeffrey's team took on board and
one larger boat which they sunk. No weapons were found. There was no official report, but the arrested persons made statements. They were kept in the hangar on board the Tromp for a week, chained to the deck. Then the commander gave orders to release them, which meant that they were put on their boat somewhere off the coast of Somalia.

Day 16 – 02 February 2011
Military Secrets

Hans Lodder, Captain of the Dutch frigate “Tromp”, who gave evidence on 26 January is back for cross examination.

First, the judge wants to know how much ammunition was used. Lodder is rather vague – yes, it's recorded somewhere but he doesn't know. “Probably one small box” is all he is willing to say. And another 2 boxes from the helicopter.

The defence asks about the detention of the Somali men. It turns out they were constantly chained to the deck, unless they went to the toilet. At night they slept on a mattress, still chained with one hand to the deck.

These questions relate to the fact that one of the detainees managed to jump over board and had to be captured. The defence wants to know whether that was before or after the interrogation. The judge intervenes at the word interrogation. It was after the 'voluntary interview', that he jumped over board. It is revealed that officer de Vind, who gave evidence the day before, took part in the interviews, although he wasn't part of the team.

Then it's on to the question of legitimisation of the whole intervention. Lodder had obtained permission from the Operational Centre of the Dutch Defence Ministry. He was not given instructions about what to do with the pirates.

Lawyer: “You had persons on board who were in shackles and were not free to move around – I assume that you knew under which statute you were detaining them”.

Lodder: “I am not an investigation officer, I don't know the law”.

Lawyer: “The Dutch prosecutor has written to the court on 04.11.2010 that the basis for the detention was the Dutch criminal law. Do you remember talking to the prosecutor about that?”

Lodder: “I don't recall that.”

Lawyer: “Were the persons on board asked whether they wanted to contact a lawyer or a representation of Somalia?”

Lodder: “I can't answer the question because I don't know who they were entitled to contact”
And on and on it goes about the minutes of the interviews, which Lodder says he never read and anyway he is no longer commander of the Tromp and therefore no longer has access to the files. Which raises the question for us: why was he relieved of the command immediately after the Tromp returned?

Then the defence wants to find out what exactly the mission of the Tromp and that of the German reconnaissance plane were  but the witness refuses to answer any questions relating to that, claiming  military confidentiality. All defence lawyers apply to the judge to have the question Lodder doesn't want to answer recorded in the minutes. The prosecutor objects and the judge sees no reason for it. The background to this is that if the case is appealed sometime in the future on this point, the appeal must be based on the exact questions. The defence argues that the witness defines himself what information is confidential and the criteria are obscure.

The court takes a break, during which the prosecutor has a private conversation with the witness. When the hearing resumes, the judge announces the court's decisions: The questions which Lodder didn't answer will not be recorded in the minutes. The application to obtain permission from the Dutch defence ministry for Lodder to give evidence is declined. Lodder will not be urged to answer the questions.

Day 15 – 31 January 2011
The Dutch navy officer de Vind is giving evidence today. But the hearing starts late because the prisoner transport is stuck in traffic.

During all the previous court hearings several people had been sitting between the press bench and the public gallery, observing the proceedings. They are neither lawyers, nor court officials, nor prison guards. We have long suspected that they are non-uniformed police. Today they made sarcastic remarks about one of the defendants not having eaten for days. Then they ask us if we knew who the person was who called the judge an arsehole at the last hearing.  We're pretty sure now.

The first witness today is the Dutch Navy officer De Vind who was deployed on the Tromp (the Dutch frigate that captured the pirates). His job had been to board the Taipan and to ascertain whether an act of piracy had taken place. In this case they knew already that it was a case of piracy, because the pirates had already taken over the ship. He went on board to secure evidence and take photographs. On board the Tromp orders were given to stay off the deck because it was assumed that the pirates would fire at them. That is why the special helicopter unit was deployed.

De Vind went on board to find the the pirates tied up on the after deck. He then went around the ship taking photos. It was difficult to establish the whereabouts of the crew, because it was unknown where the safe room was located. They made announcements on a megaphone to the crew, but they didn't come out. Only after he was talking to a another soldier in Dutch, a door opened and the crew came out. De Vind says, he assembled the crew on the after deck and spoke to them about what had happened. After the crew had checked their cabins, some reported items missing. Some of them were recovered from the pirates – mainly mobile phones and wallets. Those were returned to the crew immediately.

De Vind was then approached by a crew member who had been on “piracy watch”. He told de Vind that he had clearly seen the person who he said had launched a grenade at the Taipan. The projectile went through the entire bridge. He then identified the person on the photos that had been after the pirates had been arrested by the Dutch. The judge reminds the translator (de Vind is giving evidence in Dutch) to distinguish between 'arrested' and 'detained'. The translator assures the judge that she knows the difference – de Vind did say 'arrested'. This distinction appears to be becoming increasingly important in this trial.

The judge wants to know about the weapons and where they were found. Several rusty AK47s were found (one behind the toilet) and one RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). They also found knives and a cricket bat. De Vind is certain that a grenade went straight through the bridge without exploding.

Then it's on to the photo book. There are 2 photos of a skiff and a discussion ensues about whether it's the same boat or two different ones. Then the judge, the prosecutor and de Vind look at a photos of weapons, followed by more questions about guns and ammunition for the rest of the court day. 

Day 14 – 26 January 2011

Hans Lodder, captain of the Dutch frigate “Tromp” gave evidence today. The examination took all day - we will try to summarize...

He was informed by a German aircraft that a German ship had been under attack, some 40 – 50 miles away. He sent his helicopter off to try and prevent a hijacking and then went in the direction as well. Before the helicopter had reached the Taipan, Lodder received news that the Taipan had been captured and that the crew were in the safe room. The dhow Rutrut, which was approaching, was chased away with warning shots. The Tromp circled the Taipan several times and tried to contact the pirates through long range acoustic devices (a form of super loud hailer). After that, Lodder contacted his command centre in Den Haag who, after two hours, gave permission to free the Taipan.

Lodder then describes how they saw light reflexes and assumed they were gun fire, so they shot back. Then the crew abseiled from the helicopter and overwhelmed the pirates. First the frigate fired at the bridge of the Taipan to cover the soldiers, then the helicopter fired and then the soldiers fired themselves. Then there is some confusion about whether the shots were fired at the starboard or the port side of the Taipan.

The judge wants to know if the operation was part of the ATALANTA mission. The answer is no, they acted under a Dutch mandate, the ship was outside of the ATALANTA zone. Asked what exactly his task was at the time, Lodder replies: to wipe out piracy worldwide. The judge reminds him that, according to his report, Lodder was searching for the dhow Rutrut, which was assumed to have been captured by pirates.

Next there is some dispute between the judge and Lodder, whether the pirates were arrested or detained. Lodder denies that there is a difference. At that stage the interpreter retires and a new one takes over.

During this break the witness has to leave the court room and one of defendants makes another statement. He says that during his interrogation on the Tromp he was tied to a chair, naked.

When court resumes, the judge wants to clarify whether Lodder's brief included detaining or arresting the pirates. It turns out it didn't. After he had captured the 10 men, he phoned his command centre and got permission to take them to another place. Which place? Where they could be interrogated. Where was that? That wasn't known at the time. The judge suggests that there was an alternative – to let them go.

With the statement from the defendant in mind, the judge then asks about the interrogation methods used and whether any 'critical situations' arose. Lodder, denies, the men were given fresh clothing, taken to the hangar and asked for their personal details and whether they wanted to make a statement. At this stage 3 of the 20 defendants want to talk to their lawyers, visibly upset at Lodder's statements.

Finally the judge wants to know whether Lodder had had any contact with the captain of the Taipan, which Lodder denies. And what happened to the items found on the Taipan? The ammunition was thrown overboard, the skiffs destroyed and the guns seized.

Day 13 – 24 January 2011

A testimony backfires

The day starts badly. The judge announces that he will read the decision on the bail application for Yousuf M. The defence counsels complain that – with the exception of Yousuf's lawyer – they weren't informed. The judge's excuse is that there are only two fax machines in court and it wasn't possible to send the decision to all 20 counsel without blocking the machines for all other trials.

The bail application has been declined. Many reasons are mentioned, ranging from the accused's ability to distinguish right from wrong to the crime not just being attempted but actually carried out. His age also plays a role – the court assumes that he is more than 17 years old. A lot of it is justified with Yousuf's own testimony in court a week earlier. The caution that 'everything you say may be used against you' turns out to be true once more.

While the accused shrinks further and further into his seat, a voice from the public gallery says: “You arsehole”. Obviously, court must take a break after that.

When court resumes, the judge continues to talk about flight risk. The accused takes his headphones off and rests his head on the table. The judge insists that he put his headphones back on and listen. I wonder if this isn't some form of torture.

The judge explicitly states something for the records: “During the reading of the decision by the judge, a yet to be identified member of the public said the words 'you arsehole' in the direction of the judge. This provocation will not be tolerated by the court. The prosecutor is investigating the possibility of laying charges. This court will not tolerate further insults”. Contempt of court is punishable by €300 and/or up to 3 days imprisonment.

After this, a new witness is heard: Mr Kämmer from the Federal Criminal Office (BKA), unit SD37 which deals with abductions of German citizens abroad. In short, he was annoyed that he hadn't been able to do what he wanted in Dubai because the local authorities hadn't responded to his call for assistance.

He personally interviewed the crew of the Tromp, the Dutch frigate which stormed the Taipan. They had watched the videos taken by the German Orion reconnaissance plane in order to establish whether the damage they think was caused by an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) had existed before the Tromp arrived. But they didn't arrive at any conclusion because one of the Tromp's crew had stated that the damage had resulted from his weapon. Kämmer had wanted to take fingerprints from the weapons but they had been handled improperly by the Dutch crew and were salt water damaged. The two shells of the alleged RPGs had been thrown overboard by the Dutch crew.

Kämmer was also involved when the prisoners were transferred from the Netherlands to Germany. He was surprised that they had personal belongings with them, among them two mobile phones and hand written notes. The notes were translated: that a ship should be hijacked to demand their freedom. Neither the prosecutor nor the defence ask any questions.

The BKA tried to trace the calls made from the cell phones, but the calls to Somalia couldn't be traced. A Dutch officer had used a trick to find out who owned which phone: he offered the prisoners that they could make a call home, so each took their phone.

Some of the accused complain about headaches and Yousuf M. states that he hasn't eaten for three days, since he learned about his bail application being declined.
As we leave the court room, I look at a book one of the guards is reading. It's a trash novel from a series called 'The Great Western'. Obviously, real life pirate stories are boring to some people.

Day 12 – 19 January 2011

Today, one of the crew members from Sri Lanka is supposed to give evidence but the court hasn't been able to track him down. The German embassy in Colombo doesn't believe that the authorities there will pass the request on. The court will pay for his flight to Hamburg.

So without the main witness, the judge decides to deal with a number of other things. One subject is the bail application of the defendant Yousuf M., which can't be decided without the report from the Youth Court Aid. Incidentally, it's representative, Mr Koopmann, happens to drop in that day. Koopmann says, he generally supports bail for the accused but comes up with a number of concerns about the accommodation (not in a regular youth home because of the bad company there). He has had a number of conversations with the accused (with an interpreter) in order to ascertain his ability to distinguish right from wrong. He points to the civil war that has been going on in Somalia for 20 years and the general lawlessness there. Therefore his culpability is questionable. In addition, he was urged by adults to participate, which would have been difficult to withstand. But because the general situation in Somalia can't be compared to Germany, he doesn't think he is competent to make a judgement. Instead he recommends to consult a youth psychiatrist who is also familiar with the situation in Somalia.

Then one of the accused complains that, despite 3 pairs of glasses, he can't see properly. He was given the glasses following a medical examination - without a translator. The judge decides to assign him a translator as a 'seeing aid' when pictures or documents are shown.

Court closes early due to everything being out of schedule. During the afternoon, the bail applications will be discussed in camera.

Day 11 – 17 January 2011

First, the second officer of the Taipan is giving more evidence. Some photos are shown on whoich he claims to see a person pointing a bazooka at the ship.

Then there is the bail application of the defence for the three youngest defendants. If bail is granted, there is the possibility for them to be housed in a council youth housing facility. Counsel Getzmann points out that they are in a catch-22 situation: in order for the bail application to be granted, they have to prove that the housing facility accepts them, which is only possible if they are not in prison. The application will be decided outside of the main hearings.

Next up is an employee from the Federal Office for Migration. His responsibility is to verify the authenticity of the documents the defendants have provided. He had never seen any Somali documents before. The usual physical examination of the documents was not possible because they were only copies. There are very few reference documents available for Somalia. So he searched the internet without success and then turned to the European Country of Origin Information Network. With the exception of Italy, EU countries generally don't accept the validity of Somali documents.

Then more reports regarding the age of the defendants are read out. This time the wisdom teeth are counted. I am looking around the court room and wonder how many people in the room have wisdom teeth.

Day 10 – 12 January 2011

We here more from the second officer, from one of the accused and from another 'expert' from the forensic institute.

The second officer from the Ukraine is back giving evidence. He is asked about the guns and keeps referring to a photo the captain made which he says clearly shows a person with a grenade launcher. The judge shows him the only photo he has that matches the description – but it's from far away and no details are visible. Strange how the human mind interprets things. But he says that there were a lot more photos on the ship's computer. The judge asks if the officer had a copy of them and the answer is a maybe. So the judge orders the photos to be brought to court.

It turns out the officer has been interviewed four times already – first by the Dutch military, then by German police in Dubai, then by the Dubai authorities and finally again by German police in the Ukraine.

Then a third accused, U. makes a personal statement through his lawyer. He is a fisherman and he was hired because he could navigate a boat. It wasn't' until he was on board the boat that he found out what the plan was. First he was scared of the guns, then he was scared of the Dutch military. His lawyer applies for bail.

Finally, Dr. Kammal from the forensic institute of the University Hospital UKE gives evidence about is examination of the youngest accused. He says he was surprised that the accused arrived without an interpreter. This was unusual and meant that he could not take his medical history into account. When he first saw the accused, he thought that he was very young and only after applying the so-called 'Tanner method' to estimate his age revised his judgement.

He uses the 'Tanner method' to determine a person's age by the development of the pubic hair. He admitted that the method was not very accurate. When asked whether the results were applicable to a non-European population he hesitated for a long time before saying that applying the method one-to-one to other populations would have to be viewed critically.

Day 9 – 10 January 2011

“The boat is full” says the pirate to the accused.

The second officer of the Taipan is supposed to give evidence today. But before that, 2 of the defence lawyers indicate that their clients want to make a statement. The judge wants to read the accused their rights first, because there is a dispute about the admissibility of the statements the accused made when they were arrested and interrogated by the Dutch military. It is unclear whether those statements were taken in accordance with Dutch or German law. If they weren't then they can't be used in this trial and the judge points out that the accused shouldn't be affected by them.

K speaks in Somali and every sentence is translated. He tells the court that his son is held hostage by a man he owes money and that he participated in the attack on the Taipan to be able to release his son. “I can only think of my son, my mind isn't really here”. He stops and doesn't want to say any more.

The second statement is read by a lawyer. Y. is a boat builder by trade and has been working as a paid fisherman, but there has been very little fish lately, so he hasn't gone out much. He asked one of the pirates who came to his village to buy provisions if he could join them but the pirate told him: the boat is full. Through a friend he managed to be taken on board eventually. He was given a bucket – his job was to pump out the bilge water. He then describes how they attacked the Taipan and his arrest.

Finally, the second officer of the Taipan, Igor S., a young man from the Ukraine, takes the stand. He describes the attack and how he radioed for help and the instructions the anti-piracy command had given them: not to defend themselves but to give themselves up. He says they had prepared molotov cocktails for their defence but decided not to use them. One important aspect of the trial is the question of whether a rocket propelled grenade was used in the attack. He thinks so, but can't be sure. He and the Dutch marines searched the hole ship afterwards but couldn't find the shells. Final question from the judge: were the pirates shooting to chase you away from the bridge or to injure or kill you? Answer: they were aiming at us, had they wanted to just show their weapons they would have shot in the air. 

Day 8 – 05 January 2011

“None of us who sit here know how old they are – they weren't present at their birth”. Forensic Expert Witness Prof. Helmke, University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE), Hamburg.

Today, we hear again from the two expert witnesses, Prof Helmke and Prof Furhmann, who already gave evidence on day 3 and day 5, as well as from Captain Eggers.

It turns out that Dr Helmke's method of age determination is based on a paper published by a certain Prof. Schmeling in Berlin in 1930. Counsel Jung asks if Helmke has taken into account any material on the subject that has been published since then, i.e. within the last 80 years. To our surprise the answer is no. 

So the method to determine the age of the accused – on which this whole trial hinges – was developed at a time and place where racism was ripe and biological determinism was the order of the day. A few years on from the writing of this paper, 'scientists' would measure the length of people's noses with a calliper in order to determine whether they were Jews.

The standard tool that is used by Helmke and others is a the so-called Greulich-Peil Atlas that contains x-ray pictures of hands of increasing age. The examining doctor compares the x-rays of the person they are examining with the photos in the atlas and finds the nearest match and thereby determines the age of the person. Counsel Jung questions the relevance of the atlas, because it was compiled of what is called a “Standard Population”, i.e. Europeans and North Americans.

Obviously anyone not from those places is non-standard and therefore not relevant.

Helmke admits that the results from the atlas may not be too reliable for non-standard people, but sticks to his estimate of 'definitely over 14 years old' for the youngest defendant. He has examined some 20,000 x-rays of hands in the last 30 years and is confident that his work is accurate, although he can't really quote any scientific evidence of that.

"None of us who sit here know how old they are - they weren't present at their birth." says Dr. Helmke.

Then Prof. Fuhrman talks about examining the teeth to establish the age and insists that he estimates the age, he doesn't determine it. For a proper determination, other criteria would have to be applied. Asked about other methods, he claims that the one he uses is the best one because it provides the best results. How does he know that? Because the results are good.

After this, the captain of the MV Taipan, Dierk Eggers is up again. A couple of video clips are shown which were taken by German Navy planes when the 'activists' - as he calls the Somalis - were approaching the ship. Asked if he knew that the German Navy was in the air at the time, he says he didn't. He was only made aware of it when he was interviewed by German authorities in Dubai later.

Finally, the youngest of the accused makes a statement. He offers an apology to Eggers - who accepts.

Day 7 – 03 January 2011 - As long as it takes to boil an egg

Today, the captain of the MV Taipan, Dierk Eggers was questioned first by the judge and then by the defence counsel.

First, the judge asks about the trip and the ship's cargo. It turns out that Eggers only took over the ship in Djibouti because the original captain didn't want to travel into the danger zone. He hadn't known which route the ship was going to take. At the time, the Taipan was sailing under German flag. Shortly after the incident, this was changed and it is now sailing under Liberian flag, because under Liberian law it is allowed to have armed guards on board, which is prohibited for German ships.

Eggers describes how they had passed the Gulf of Aden the day before in a convoy, accompanied by military ships. Still, they witnessed on the radio how one ship was attacked.

The judge wants to know about the 'safe room' to which the crew retreated. Then he asks about the actual attacks – what weapons did the attackers have? Eggers states that he doesn't have a clue about guns, one of the reasons he went to sea was to avoid military service. For how long were they under fire? “For as long as it takes to boil an egg – 5 minutes”.

We notice how he avoids the term 'pirates' – instead he uses the old fashioned word 'freebooter'.

Then the judge asks about the personal impact the incident has had on Eggers and the crew. Did he take a break after arriving in Dubai? “No, the only place where I can relax is the ship”. Has it impacted his life? No, actually it's been a good experience because he realised how calm he could remain in a situation like that. Post traumatic stress? The mechanic didn't sleep well for a while.

Next, one of the defence lawyers cross examines. She wants to know who decides about the route the ship takes. The captain does, with recommendations from the European anti-piracy operation ATALANTA. “More than recommendations”, Eggers says.

Then the subject is the Dutch crew who rescued them, but it appears that the exchange between them and Eggers was rather limited. “The commander told me he had arrested them”. He wasn't questioned by anyone until he arrived in Dubai, where the German Federal Criminal Office interviewed him.

Asked, if he could think of any improvements that could be made to avoid attacks he suggests to have a Muslim priest on board to talk to the attackers.

Day 6 - 22 December 2010

Today there is a lot of media interest because the captain of the MVTaipan will give evidence. But first, there is a dispute about a video that was taken by the Dutch marines who captured the pirates.

Despite the fact that the court has known about this video, none of the defendants and only some of the lawyers have seen it, so the the defence lawyers object to the captain giving evidence at this stage. The judge takes a short break and then decides that the captain will start giving evidence, then the court will watch the four hour video (public excluded) and then the examination will continue.

But now the captain, Dierk Eggers. He looks friendly, an old guy with long blond hair, a weather stained face and a woollen hat.
The container ship had been travelling for two days from Djibouti to Mombasa, on a course far away from the Somali coast. They knew about the danger and had deliberately chosen a route some 600 miles off the coast. They saw a small ship about 8 miles away and changed course, the other ship also changed course away from the Taipan and reduced the speed, which made them think that is was a shipping vessel setting nets. In fact the ship had been releasing the speedboats, which showed up on the radar soon after, approaching fast. Eggers set off the alarm, sent the crew to the engine room and sent off an emergency  message and phoned the ship's owner. They speed boats approached fast and shots were fired. Then he went to the fortified engine room himself. The crew heard the pirates enter the ship and look for the crew.
Two hours later, they heard a helicopter arrive, more shots were fired. After a while they heard English voices telling them they were safe, but they weren't sure if it wasn't the pirates trying to trick them. Only after they heard people speak Dutch did they open the door.
Eggers statement ends and the judge tells him that there won't be any questions today. His examination will continue on 3rd January. Eggers says that he still has a fur hat that he found on the ship – should he bring it? Yes, why not, the judge says. We wonder – a fur hat in the tropics? We are later told that many people in Somalia are relying on clothes from humanitarian aid shipments and apparently that is what Europeans give, along with high heeled shoes.

Day 5 – 17 December 2010

The day stars with the judge observing that still no representative of the Youth Authority or the court aid for minors are present. According to German law, when minors are on trial, these have to be present in order to ensure correct proceedings. But since the personal details of the accused aren't being discussed yet, the judge decides to proceed. 

Then there is more debate about whether the press should be allowed to make drawings of the accused, and whether the accused can be identified from the drawings. The press wins, drawings are allowed.

Finally, the examination of Dr. Helmke from the Hamburg University Hospital on determining a person's age continues. He states that the certainty for determining a person's age by examining the carpal bones is 95%. Depending on the method applied, he estimates that the youngest accused (who claims to be 13) is at least 14, or 19 plus or minus 4 years.

A lot of details follow about the growth of bones and the different ways of analysing them and why the  Dutch expert originally estimated a younger age. In cross examination it turns out that the statement of “95% certainty” has to be qualified somewhat. The number is based on a study from the late 1930s, done with North American children from a white middle class background between the age of 0 and 19. Nutrition or malnutrition, illnesses, traumatic experiences, ethnicity can all skew the results in either direction. 

Next up is Dr Fuhrmann again, also from the University Hospital, who already gave evidence on day 3. He talks of ways to determine someone's age by their teeth and the collar bone. The tooth method is focussed on the wisdom teeth. According to the decay of the wisdom teeth, he estimates the age to be 23. But socio-economic factors can influence the results.

During the last hour, one of the defendants repeatedly takes his headphones off and massages his ears. I'm thinking: he can't stand it any more. Then the youngest accused complains about headaches and it looks as if he's wiping tears from his face. Court takes a short break.

Fuhrmann is head of the quality control board in his department. Counsel Jung wants to know what quality control means – does it mean that everyone reaches the same results? Yes, when every medical expert starts with the same data, there shouldn't be any discrepancies. Jung quotes from a study that was presented at Fuhrmann's own conference two years ago, which found that the age development among Canadian First Nation people differed from any other ethnic group. Furhmann says he hasn't actually read the study and can't comment. Jung continues to present findings that show a wide range of estimates for the same person, ranging from 14 to 25. Again, Fuhrman doesn't know the details and can't comment.

Court closes. The cross examination of Dr Helmke will continue on 5th January.

Day 4 - 15 December 2010

Hardly anyone is there – only 4 members of the public and 4 press. Additionally 3 innocuous looking men are sitting there, more interested in observing the public than the trial.

An argument develops about whether the press should be allowed to make drawings in the court room (cameras have already been banned), because again, one newspaper published a drawing that clearly showed one defendant.

The judge continues with the objections to the expert witnesses. He takes a 15 minute recess to discuss his findings with the three jurors. When he comes back he spends an hour reading his 12 page decision not to grant the objections. It's impossible to transcribe all of this, but the reasons were mostly formal.

As I listen to all this I wonder what the interpreters are saying. I hope they are speaking nice stories into the headphones of the accused.

Counsel Jung asks the judge how it was possible to discuss the 12 page document with the jurors in just 17 minutes. The judge declares that is not going divulge where and when he discusses with the jurors.

The judge continues with the examination of another expert witness, Dr. Helmke from the University Hospital. He explains the procedures. “This patient didn't have an interpreter, and we didn't try to communicate in English or French with him”. He wants to quote from a dissertation, is asked by whom, he doesn't know. He says he read it on the internet. He talks a lot about the growth of bones in the hand and the difference in development between girls and boys.

Day 3 - 8 December 2010

One of the expert witnesses on the question of the age of the youngest accused, Dr Fuhrmann, is supposed to give evidence today. But first counsel Jung submits an objection to the witness for a number of reasons.

The prosecution has failed to notify the defence of the medical examination performed on their client. They have also failed to explain to the accused why he was dragged out of prison and into hospital and what the medical examination was about. The accused was not informed of his rights, no interpreter was involved. His medical history was not recorded. The accused was ordered by means of gestures to open his mouth, to get undressed, to lie down underneath the x-ray machine, while he had no idea about the purpose of the machine. The defence had no possibility to object to any of this.

The defence then reads from publications by the witness and his colleague, in which they write about the role of the 'Expert Witness in Court'. They write that the primary goal is not to establish the truth, but to fend off critical questions by the defence and never to allow any doubt about the expertise. Otherwise they would risk their status as experts. In other words: if they were to give evidence that ran contrary to the prosecution, they could forget about their next job. There is obviously a monetary interest involved and the accused becomes an object of that interest.

More questions are raised about the relevance of the findings, the lack of a reference population, etc.

Then the lawyer raises the question if the experts aren't guilty of intentionally injuring his client by subjecting him to an x-ray examination without any medical indication. Therefore it would be in the witness' own interest not to give evidence because of the risk of self-incrimination.

After some discussion, the judge decides to proceed with hearing the witness and decide about the objection afterwards.

But now another problem arises: the defendants complain that they haven't been able to understand due to the speed of the exchange. The translators haven't been able to keep up, because many of the words used don't exist in Somali and had to be circumscribed. And how would the counsel know what their clients think was said? The judge reminds everyone to talk slowly and suggest that the translators should re-translate the circumscribed terms into German to check if they are correct. No doubt we are witnessing great moments of the German justice system.

But now it's back to the witness. Dr. Fuhrmann explains that in his opinion the accused is at least 18 years of age. The judge wants to know why no interpreter was present. That wasn't necessary, says Fuhrmann, because he was able to indicate to the accused what he wanted him to do. There was no communications problem. Does he remember his publication? No, not precisely.

The examination of the witness isn't finished but court closes.

Day 2 - 1 December 2010

The second day of the trial is mostly spent with procedural issues.

First the judge complains that one of the lawyers is not sitting where he was the day before. The judges stresses the need to stick to the seating order, otherwise he might confuse people. The defence, in turn, complains that the press broke a court order and published photos of the defendants.

The accused enter the court room and seem slightly more relaxed than on the first day.

The lawyer for the youngest accused demands bail for his client because he is unlikely to be convicted. He explains that his client lost both his parents at the age of four, and from the age of ten had to live totally independently. How he has lived a life not knowing in the morning whether he would still be alive in the evening and whether he was going to get anything to eat. That he grew up in archaic society, determined by hunger and survival.

Then a discussion between the judge and one of the lawyers evolves around the issue of an application to object to the so called experts who have determined the age of the youngest defendants. At this stage I have difficulty following the debate. Not because they don't speak clearly but because of the technical jargon. I wonder what the defendants hear through their headphones, how all this is being translated, and I realize that several trials at once are happening. And I wonder how the defendants would explain all this to their best friend in Somalia.

Day 1 - 22 November 2010
I was born during the rainy season
A report about the first day of the 'piracy' trial

It's the first day of the so called Piracy Trial in the youth court in Hamburg. The room is full:
  • 20 lawyers
  • 10 accused Somali males, among them one child and one adolescent
  • 3 translators
  • 50 reporters
  • 30 camera people in the hallway
  • 40 members of the public
  • and way too many security staff

First, the judge asks the defendants for their names, birth dates and places of birth. Most have to repeat their name several times: names which neither the judge nor the press have ever pronounced. The translator repeats the name, the judge repeats the name and it all sounds like a classroom full of Europeans trying to learn the Somali language.

Most of the defendants say they only have a birth year, not a birth date. One of them says: we get our birth date from the season. I am 24 years old and I was born during the rainy season.

I was born under the tree! says the next. Other than that I don't know anything about my birth date. I think I am 20 years old.

The judge is calm and promises to try to pronounce everyone's names correctly.

Then the prosecutor reads out the charges, very quietly. I wonder if she does it on purpose.

The low, monotone voice of the prosecutor reading charges puts the court room to sleep. Journalists read their cell phones, others yawn. They all wake up again when one of the lawyers wants to read a joint statement of the defendants.

It's about international law, fishing rights, resources, poverty, living conditions, minors who shouldn't be trialled, the question whether a German court has any right at all to trial these people, and it ends with the statement that a guilty verdict in this trial would hardly have any influence on piracy in Somalia.

The judge replies with the assurance that the age of the youngest accused would have to be determined first, and that questions of international law would be considered.

The prosecutor claims that the city of birth of one of the defendants doesn't exist. Neither she nor the foreign office have heard about it. But Wikipedia knows about this town with a population of 62.000, schools, etc. The lawyer is also in contact with the mother. She has organised papers from the defendant's school, the headmaster can be contacted, they even provide phone numbers.

The prosecutor still claims that the city may not exist, although everyone can see it on Google Earth. Even a reporter for RTL was there some time ago and reported about it.

Outside, different groups alert the public to the trial. Some have banners with slogans against colonial injustice, others with quotes from the Somalian fishermen and they take the voices and thoughts of the accused to the street.

Press Release by the Defence Counsel
22 November 2010
The home of the ten defendants is Somalia in East Africa.

Since 1991, Somalia is being ravaged by civil war; the UN classifies the country as a 'failed state' – a country that can't be helped, even by the UN. Similar to Afghanistan, the political and social structures have largely been destroyed. Hundred of thousands Somalians are suffering from hunger, the medical system has collapsed. Frequently military fighting between clan militias breaks out, with a high number of casualties. Al-Shahb are terrorizing large parts of the population. The Somalians are suffering; there is no escape within the country.

The accused were arrested on the 5th April, 2010 on the open sea off the Somali coast, and were transferred via the Netherlands to Hamburg.

From the viewpoint of the defence, the following questions will need to be addressed foremost:

1. According to German law, only persons may be subject to a criminal trial who were over 14 years of age at the time of the offence. With one of the defendants, there are serious doubts about his ability to stand trial because of his age. Criminal proceedings may not be initiated against anyone under the age of criminal responsibility. Determining the age of this defendant is therefore a  priority.

2. According to the files, Dutch Marines took the accused from a German Freighter to a Dutch war ship, exercising national law, and held them there for a length of time. A court-issued arrest warrant did not exist. Following that, the accused were held in deportation detainment in the Netherlands; the Dutch state was not willing to start criminal proceedings against them. It will have to be established whether the arrest of the accused by Dutch Marine personnel, the transfer to a Dutch prison and the subsequent deportation to Germany were lawful according to international, German and Dutch law. An unlawful transfer of the accused to Germany could be sufficient reason for a stay of proceedings.

3. There are indications in the files that German authorities were informed about the happenings on the MV 'Taipan' from an early stage, and that they may have been involved significantly in the arrest and transfer of the accused to the Netherlands. The defence is seeking information regarding the level of involvement of German officials and what knowledge these officials had. This will have to be determined.

4. In the case that the guilt of the accused can be proven, the living conditions of each of the accused with regards to the local conditions will have to be established precisely. Only then can their guilt be determined and judged. In conjunction with this, the developments in Somalia since 1991 will have to be examined by means of expert opinions, as well as the question of what impact the poaching of European and Asian fishing fleets and the disposal of toxic waste off the coast of Somalia has had on the lives of the accused.

5. It remains to be seen in how far the Justice Department of Kenya will be willing to be the “sweeper” for the prosecution of Somalians. The EU and other countries are negotiating with Kenya about a financial wish list of the Kenyan government in order to come to an agreement of mutual assistance. The rather random assignment of prosecutions against Somalians in the USA, France, the Netherlands, Kenya and now Hamburg are no solution to the problem. Everyone knows that only a political solution can be effective.

6. This trial will show whether the engagement of the Hamburg Courts with events in the Indian Ocean is appropriate. The terms of general and special prevention, as they are defined in German criminal law are certainly not applicable. A guilty verdict of of this court will certainly not have any effect on piracy in the Indian Ocean. A rehabilitation of the accused in Germany is not likely to be desired, a rehabilitation in their home country is impossible.

Trial Dates

22 Novenber 2010
01 December 2010
09 December 2010
15 December 2010
17 December 2010
22 December 2010

03 January 2011
05 January 2011
10 January 2011
12 January 2011
17 January 2011
19 January 2011
24 January 2011
26 January 2011
31 January 2011

02 February 2011
07 February 2011
09 February 2011
14 February 2011
16 February 2011
21 February 2011
23 February 2011
28 February 2011

 02 March 2011
every Monday and Wendsday till May 2011

27.05.2011, 9.00 Uhr
20.06.2011, 13.00 Uhr
22.06.2011, 9.00 Uhr
12.07.2011, 9.00 Uhr
15.07.2011, 9.00 Uhr
15.08.2011, 9.00 Uhr
17.08.2011, 9.00 Uhr
18.08.2011, 9.00 Uhr
22.08.2011, 9.00 Uhr
23.08.2011, 9.00 Uhr
26.08.2011, 9.00 Uhr