German lawyers launch pirate defense team
The tangled case involves Somali pirates, a German ship, an overcrowded Kenyan prison, and allegations of human rights abuses.
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"It was a political decision to ask Kenya to have jurisdiction in this case, and you often have something like a smelly fish when political decisions are made," says Wallasch. "Kenya is not involved at all."Skip to next paragraph
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Does German law apply?
It is unlikely that a civil case against the German government will postpone criminal proceedings in Kenya, which are expected to last six months. But it could cut through the EU-Kenya agreement and compel legal authorities to ultimately change the trial's venue to Germany, Wallasch says.
Right now, the lawyers do not even know whether Kenya's courts will allow them to represent the accused pirates in the criminal case, though they are standing by to do just that, Wallasch says.
Three of the accused, including Dahir, maintain they were simply catching a ride to Yemen and did not know they were in the company of pirates. The case is complicated by the fact that the captain of the MV Courier did not provide a witness account of the incident to the German Navy.
The question remains to what extent does German law govern in this case. The lawyers say quite a lot: A section of the country's criminal code outlines that the German legal process applies for acts committed against German air and sea traffic.
The public prosecution office in Hamburg, the home of the German company that owns the MV Courier, has already prepared a 500-page brief in the case and argues it has jurisdiction in the matter.
"The public prosecution in Hamburg is well prepared. The case in Germany is well prepared. If these men were allowed to go to Hamburg, there is a good chance that they would have a fair trial," Wallasch says.
If it fights the civil lawsuit, "then it proves the agreement between the EU and Kenya is a political and judicial bluff package," Mr. Schulz says. If the government changes its mind, "German foreign policy will be subject to massive criticism."
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the government told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, of Munich, that accusations of human rights abuses were baseless and that "the judicial process in Kenya is being followed by German observers as well."
One observer, Jürgen Trittin, of the Green Party, is expected to fly to Kenya next week.