Sunday, October 28, 2012

Some European Trials

The trial of the seven Somali men and three teenagers in Hamburg, Germany, finally come to end on Friday 19th October. They were all found guilty of 'attack on maritime traffic' and 'abduction for the purpose of blackmail' and sentenced to prison. The teenagers received sentences of two years and the adults sentences from six to seven years. 

As the time already spent in custody in Germany is taken into account for sentencing, the three teenagers do not have to return to prison (the three were released on bail in April).  Currently Germany does not deport people to Somalia, so the young men are able to stay in Hamburg.

The Hamburg trial was one of the longest in post-war Germany history - 104 days, and supposedly the first 'pirate' trial in over 400 years. It was reported on in great detail by the 'Reclaim the Seas' blog, a blog attempting to 'help make the voices of the accused heard'.

Many people argued the trial was an expensive piece of state propaganda playing with peoples' lives to justify Atalanta and Germany's role in it.

In the first days of the trial, defense lawyers issued a statement saying that "the real cause of piracy in the region was political unrest in Somalia and over-fishing of its waters by Western nations." (Spiegel Online) A further Speigel article described the case as an 'expensive farce'.

Meanwhile, in a much quicker trial lasting little more than a month - on 12th October, nine Somali men on trial in the Netherlands were convicted and sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment on charges of piracy. They were facing the possibility of life imprisonment but were found not guilty of attempted murder.

The nine men were were part of a group of 16 arrested on board an Iranian ship by Dutch marines in April 2011. Two other members of the group were killed when the Dutch boarded the ship.

The trial in Italy of nine men continues, but media reports are that it may be over before the end of the year. As reported earlier on this blog, the nine are facing not only piracy-related charges but also terrorism. The prosecution are trying to argue that the ransom money was intended for Al-Shabaab.

The four teenagers arrested at the same time as the nine men, were tried separately in a Rome juvenile court and in June were found guilty of attempted hi-jacking but not of terrorism. They were each sentenced to eight years in prison.