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IFSMA Secretary General to speak for Laptalo

IFSMA Secretary General to speak for Laptalo in Appeal Tomorrow

Captain Rodger MacDonald, Secretary General of the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA), is to testify on behalf of the Coral Sea’s Captain Kristo Laptalo (59), in his appeal against a 14 year jail sentence, at the Patras Appellate Felony Court in Greece tomorrow.

Captain MacDonald, who is also a Trustee of the Nautilus trade union, will represent the International Transport Workers’ Federation at the request of Captain Laptalo’s legal team, who are hoping to overturn the jail sentence imposed on him at a trial in July that the ITF called “fatally flawed and impossible to reconcile with all the evidence which pointed to his innocence”.

Andreas Nassikas, leader of the Captain’s legal team, explained: “It will certainly have an impact if the ITF explains to the Court that it is impossible for masters to check all the items which are to be loaded on board their ships (in this instance 187,000 boxes of bananas!).”

Captain MacDonald commented: “I’m hopeful that the court will understand the impossibility of what it has demanded from Captain Laptalo and redress the terrible wrong that has been done to him.”

ITF Maritime Coordinator Stephen Cotton, added: “The trial in July was so dangerously rushed and lacking in evidence that it has attracted nothing but disbelief and criticism. In the end it relied on the accusation that Captain Laptalo was guilty because he didn’t know about the drugs but should have, an argument that has no precedent in Greek law.”

He continued “That specious argument has to be challenged and then reversed. If not it will penalise not just Captain Laptalo, but could jeopardise every master everywhere who is unable to open every container, box and packet on his or her ship.”

At the time of the trial in July Predrag Brazzoduro, ITF Coordinator for Croatia, reported: “The main prosecution witness, the Harbour Master, gave the answer ‘I don’t know’ so many times that I’ve learned the Greek word for this. In the end his statement was so much in favour of the three seafarers that the Prosecutor asked him ‘Why we have put them in jail?’ His answer was that he didn’t know! Meanwhile witnesses for the defence were stopped in the middle of their speeches, including the investigator who found (in cooperation with the Ecuadorian Police) the people who put the drugs in the banana boxes. He tried to say what he had found and was sent from the witness bench by the Judge. Witnesses like Captain Lickot, who was involved in deciding which part of the cargo was to be discharged, were not even heard.

“At the end of the trial the Judge gathered his papers and walked out before the last defence lawyer had finished his closing speech. It was no surprise that a Greek colleague sitting next to me said ‘Oh God, what will people think of us?’. A Dutch Captain shouted out ‘Shame on you Greek judges’, while the wife of Captain Laptalo was just asking: ‘Why are you doing this to us? What have we done? We were honest people for all our life, why do you do this to us?’”

Captain Laptalo was arrested in July 2007 when cocaine was found hidden among a load of bananas loaded onto the Coral Sea in Ecuador.

ENDS

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