NGO Mission Lifeline presented documentary evidence in open court on Tuesday showing that its vessel was Dutch-registered in spite of a new certificate attempting to cast doubt upon the ship’s flag.
This snippet of information emerged during the testimony of the NGO’s CEO Axel Steier who was giving evidence in the ongoing compilation against captain Claus-Peter Reisch.
The captain is currently facing charges of steering the ship within Maltese territorial waters without the necessary registration and licence.
The 57-year old German captain had been at the helm of the charity-run ship MV Lifeline when it had rescued more than 200 migrants in the Mediterranean last June.
With the compilation now entering its final stages and a judgment expected in May, the last witness summoned by the defence was Mr Steier who took the stand, confirming documentation and answering a series of questions to prove that the ownership and registration of the vessel was in order.
The MV Lifeline had been purchased from NGO Sea Watch in August 2017 for €120,000, said Mr Steier who exhibited the bill of sale, the contract, as well as the protocol of delivery and acceptance, dated September 2017.
Upon transfer of ownership, the vessel’s Dutch flag had been retained, the witness explained, supplying an account of all the formalities undertaken to keep the flag, obtaining a new registration and an international certificate showing that the MV Lifeline, owned by the eponymous NGO, had a Dutch flag and its home port at Amsterdam.
MV Lifeline is clearly a Dutch vessel
“MV Lifeline is clearly a Dutch vessel,” Mr Steier stressed, adding it had only been after the start of these proceedings before the Maltese courts that the NGO had received a certificate in an open envelope in the post, with an ‘N/A’ instead of the former reference to its Dutch flag.
Earlier on, the Dutch embassy had signaled that the Lifeline’s registration was not in order, stating this by means of a tweet which the NGO had immediately countered via the same Twitter platform.
Answering a question under cross-examination, Mr Steier confirmed that the Lifeline’s rescue operations in respect of “people in distress” especially in the Mediterranean, clearly fell within the parameters of the vessel’s official mandate which limited its licence to “recreational purposes and not for financial gain.”
“We do it out of love for people,” remarked the witness, thus bringing down the curtain on the evidence stage.
After the defence team had declared that it had no further evidence to put forward and as the prosecution presented its written note of submissions today, the court, presided over by magistrate Joseph Mifsud, adjourned the case for judgment on May 14.
Inspectors Mario Haber and Daryl Borg prosecuted. Lawyers Cedric Mifsud, Neil Falzon and Gianluca Cappitta were defence counsel.
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