03/07/09 (B505) Le journal de la Flibuste

____________________________ 1 – AllAfrica (En Anglais)

Un officier américain témoigne devant un tribunal kenyan, des faits de piraterie dont il a eu connaissance. // Kenya: U.S. Officer Tells of Pirate Attack

A US navy officer told the court on Thursday that the description of a small boat which allegedly tried to pirate a vessel matched the one he was informed about by the vessel’s captain.

Mr William Murtha told the court that they saw the boat from their ship USS VELLAGULA five kilometres away from where they were.

He said after the boat stopped, some officers went to the boat and took the suspects to their ship.

"The first two suspects were searched and a hand gun recovered from one of them," said Mr Murtha testifying before senior resident magistrate Timothy Gesora against seven suspects charged with piracy.

The naval officer said he saw several AK 47 rifles and an RPG being removed allegedly from the boat in which the suspects were in.

He said the captain of MV Polaris which was allegedly attacked by the suspects was contacted and before he arrived at the position they were.

"Statements from three witnesses aboard MV Polaris were taken before they went away," said Mr Murtha.

Upon cross examination by defence counsel Mr Francis Kadima,the alleged attack of the vessel by suspected pirates occurred in the Gulf of Aden.

He said there was a Chinese ship which was within the vicinity when the captain of MV Polaris lost sight of the boat.

The witness said he was informed that suspects put a ladder on the vessel before the crew on board knocked it off.

"The captain said the ladder was knocked into the water," said the witness.

He told the court that the suspects were not arrested in Kenyans territorial waters neither did he make any decision to have them brought in the country.

At one point Mr Kadima indicated that he wanted the witness stood down to make an application on the jurisdiction of the court to hear that matter a move which was vehemently opposed by the state counsel Mr Alexander Muteti.

Mr Muteti said it was unfair to stand down the witness considering that he was a foreigner whose attendance cost a fortune and that the nature of his duty will not allow the prosecution to summon him every time.

"The issue of jurisdiction can be raised at anytime. However I extend an olive branch for the witness to continue with his evidence to conclusion," said Mr Kadima.

He was expected to make his application concerning the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter later yesterday afternoon.

The accused are Mohamud Abdi Kheyre alias Mohamed Abdi Khayre, Abshir Salat Elmi,Abdullahi Ahmed Hussein,Abdirahaman Hussein Hassan,Abdikarim Abdullahi Hassan,Hassan Isse Muse alias Mohamed Issa Musa and Feysal Ali Hussein alias Faisal Ali Hussein.

They were charged that on February 11, this year at about 2.20 pm in the Indian Ocean and armed with five AK47 rifles, a pistol; and a RPG-7 portable rocket launcher attacked MV Polaris.