Chinese captain’s sentence reduced for murder of pirates

After two appeals, a court ruled that Wang Fengyu only directly ordered the killing of a suspected pirate off Somalia in a September 2012 incident.

The Kaohsiung Branch of the High Court on Thursday reduced the prison sentence of a Chinese man from 26 years to 13 years for allegedly ordering the murder of suspected pirates while captain of a Taiwanese ship in 2012.

Wang Fengyu (汪峰裕) was arrested on August 22, 2020, after the ship he captained at the time, flying the flag of Seychelles indian star, moored at Kaohsiung Port. In October of the same year, Kaohsiung prosecutors charged Wang with homicide and violations of the Firearms, Ammunition, and Knife Control Act (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例) for the alleged murder. of four suspected pirates.

In January last year, the Kaohsiung District Court found Wang guilty of the charges and sentenced him to 26 years in prison.

Wang appealed the case, but the High Court in May last year upheld the conviction. He filed another appeal with the Supreme Court, which found discrepancies in the evidence presented, and in August last year the Supreme Court ordered the Kaohsiung Branch of the High Court to reconsider the case. for a new trial.

On Thursday, the High Court said evidence only showed that Wang ordered the killing of one suspected pirate, not four, and reduced his sentence to 13 years. The court said it also took into account in its decision the serious safety concerns related to the incident at sea.

The decision can still be appealed.

The incident occurred on September 29, 2012, aboard the Kaohsiung registered Ping Shin No. 101 while operating in the Indian Ocean off Somalia.

Wang was hired by a company in Kaohsiung to serve as the acting captain of the Ping Shin in 2011, court documents showed.

The vessel was operating approximately 595 km southeast of Mogadishu when it, together with the Kaohsiung registered vessel Chun I No. 217 and two other unidentified fishing boats, were allegedly fired upon by a ship with a crew of four suspected pirates, according to court documents.

One of the fishing boats rammed the attacking vessel, which capsized, throwing the crew into the water. Wang allegedly ordered two Pakistani crew members he hired to shoot the men in the water, he showed.

The murders became public knowledge two years later, in August 2014, when a 10-minute video clip of the shooting was released online, after a smartphone believed to have filmed the shooting was found in a taxi in Fiji and that an anonymous person uploaded the video to YouTube.

In the clip, a man believed to be the captain is heard giving orders in Mandarin with a Chinese accent over a loudspeaker to the crew, as 40 live rounds are fired.

The four men in the water are shot one by one, with video showing the water turning red around them. No image of the shooters is visible.

Although Wang is Chinese and the crime took place in the Indian Ocean, prosecutors said they were able to charge him in Taiwan because the shots came from a Taiwanese ship.

In the indictment, Wang allegedly told prosecutors he was involved in “piracy hunting”, but said the shootings were in “self-defense”.

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