The fourth prosecution witness testified on Tuesday, in the trial of ten alleged pirates at the federal high court, Lagos.
Police superintendent Danladi Aliyu told Justice Ayokunle Faji that his team were on the Federal government’s panel to probe piracy in May this year, and were tasked with interrogating the defendants. But counsel to the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 8th and 9th defendants, Omoniyi Aruwayo, objected to the admission of the accused persons’ statements, contending that the information was gotten through duress and after several beatings. Counsel to the other defendants, Joe Nwokedi, Monday Mawah and Femi ANjorin added that parts of the statements were confessional, which shouldn’t be admitted.
Justice Faji then conducted a trial-within-trial to scrutinise the statements. The witness, SP Aliyu denied the position that the defendants were tortured, as the process was done in a conducive atmosphere (with lights, AC, TV and fridge) and in the presence of counsel from the legal aid counsel, representing the men, to confirm that the questioning was done in accordance with the law. Other officers from the DSS and the Navy were also present.
He added that each of them was asked if he would be on record or if he wants to volunteer a statement, and warned that where he chooses to make a statement, it tendered in court as evidence. The witness went on to say that the suspect will still need to answer when asked if he understands the process. One of the defendants, he said, he will write his own statement and was even given bottled water to drink. The statements were then recorded on video.
The court adjourned the trial to August 4, 5 and 6 to view the recording of the interrogation, brought by the FG’s counsel, Labaran Magaji, and for the continuation of the trial.
Earlier in the day, Justice Faji dismissed the bail applications of the ten defendants, noting the grave offences for which the men are being tried, which he says are a threat to national security. He ordered a further accelerated trial instead, and called on the prosecution to bring forward its remaining witness to testify.
The court relied on judicial precedents, to the effect that human rights must be suspended so that national security can be protected.
He also considered the punishments for the alleged crimes, which include life sentence, at least a 50 million fine, and restitution, if found guilty under the suppression of piracy and other maritime offences act of 2019.
This is the first trial to be prosecuted under the law.
Last week, the accused argued their motions, on the grounds that there was no cogent information in the charge, and that the offences are bailable, which the court has the powers to grant.
Some of the defendants were also said to be ill and needed medical attention outside their detention facilities.
But the court ruled that there was no proof of the nature of the said illnesses in their applications.
The defendants are accused of attempting to hijack a Chinese fishing vessel, named FV Hai Lu Feng II, and holding several foreign hostages, 149 nautical miles off the Lagos Fairway Buoy in May this year. The Nigerian navy rescued the captives and arrested the suspects.
They were arraigned on Monday, July the 13th, on a three-count charge, which they pleaded not guilty to. Three prosecution witnesses testified same day, including Yi yuan, the captain of the vessel.