OVER 100 alleged Somali pirates willing to plead guilty have said they will not cross examine witnesses nor appeal their sentence unless they are given the death penalty. All except one of the 119 Somali pirates — who have been booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and other charges including about 50 charged for murder — want to voluntarily accept guilt.
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In 2011, the Somali nationals were apprehended by the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy off the Lakshwadeep coast. The trial has reached its fag end with only five witnesses yet to be examined. Advocate Vishwajeet Singh, representing the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Somalia, told the court that an undertaking will be given by the accused.
“The accused are ready to give an undertaking that if any witness is going to depose, they will not be cross-examined. The sentence given by the court will also not be appealed against unless it is the death penalty,” Singh argued. The accused have been lodged at Taloja prison since 2011 and are periodically produced in court through video-conferencing.
Special public prosecutor Ranjeet Sangle opposed the plea, stating that the trial has almost ended. “The proposition of the accused to plead guilty has come at a subsequent stage of the trial. We are of the view that the plea be taken on record and the trial goes on. The deposition of only five investigating officers is remaining. Each of the accused will be given an opportunity to speak under section 313 of the criminal procedure code. The court can hear them at that stage,” Sangle argued before the court. He said that over the past three years, 75 witnesses had been examined.
“Let them prove their seriousness of voluntarily accepting guilt by not cross-examining the remaining witnesses. The court can also decide on the evidentiary value of these pleas at a later stage,” Sangle said, asking what the reason for the pleas at this stage are.
Special Judge V V Kathare will be deciding on the pleas Thursday.
Meanwhile, Sangle also told court that the examination of foreign nationals as witnesses in the case may not be required since their statements are recorded before magistrates under section 164 of the criminal procedure code. Though the government had communicated to nations including Malaysia and Indonesia to summon the witnesses, there has been no response so far.