Trial of Vietnamese sailors in South Africa adjourned, again

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The trial of 10 Vietnamese fishermen arrested in South Africa earlier this month was postponed to June 8, a local court said Wednesday, according to newswire Independent Online.

Ten Vietnamese fishermen who allegedly commandeered the Taiwanese fishing vessel Balena in early May appeared briefly in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court Wednesday, Independent Online reported.

 Magistrate Vusi Mhlangu postponed the case to June 8 for what prosecutor Greg Wolmarans described as "completion of aspects of the investigation," the newswire said.

The Vietnamese sailors, aged between 17 and 28, had appeared at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on May 7 but Mhlangu postponed the case to May 20. They are facing charges relating to kidnapping and piracy - which involves any act of violence or detention on the high seas.

Wolmarans said Wednesday that defense attorney Alan Goldberg also intended to make representations to the regional director of public prosecutions, Independent Online said.

It added that Goldberg told the court his clients would not apply for bail at this stage.

He said afterwards the representations could involve either a call for charges â€" provisionally of kidnapping â€" to be dropped, or an approach for a plea agreement, depending on the docket, which he had not yet seen.

Members of the police's special task force boarded the Balena in South African waters on May 5 after crew members allegedly took the captain and first officer hostage.

They were demanding that it enter Cape Town harbor, according to Independent Online.

On May 13, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said, “From information we have received, the harsh working conditions and continuing abuse on the [Balena] vessel had prompted the Vietnamese sailors to react to the Taiwanese ship owner demanding they disembark and fly home.

“They are victims [of abuse aboard the vessel] so they cannot be tried for abduction and piracy,” Dung reiterated.

Source: TN, Agencies

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