The Kaohsiung District Court on Friday sentenced a Chinese man to 26 years in prison for ordering the killing of four alleged pirates in 2012, when he was serving as the captain of a Taiwanese fishing vessel.
Wang Fengyu (汪峰裕), 43, was convicted of homicide and for breaching the Controlling Guns, Knives and Ammunition Act (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例), the court said.
The incident happened on board the Kaohsiung-registered longliner Ping Shin No. 101 in the Indian Ocean off the Somalian coast on Sept. 29, 2012. Wang ordered two Pakistanis he had hired as acting captains to fire at and kill four Somalian men he suspected of being pirates, the court said.
The incident was witnessed by crew members on several nearby vessels, one of which was the Chun I No. 217, also registered in Taiwan, it said.
The group of vessels was on the day allegedly fired at while operating 595km southeast of Mogadishu, the court said.
Wang ordered his crew to fire back at a boat carrying the four alleged pirates, the court said, adding that one of the vessels, which is not named in the court filing, also rammed the boat, causing it to overturn and sink.
Wang then ordered his crew to fire at the four men, who were defenseless swimming in the water, it said.
The incident became known in August 2014, when a 10-minute video of the killing was posted online by an anonymous person who allegedly found the footage on smartphone they found in a taxi in Fiji, the court said.
In the video, a man believed to be Wang can be heard ordering his crew to fire at the men in the water, after which about 40 rounds are fired, it said.
The man ordering the shooting or the shooters are not shown in the footage, the court added.
Wang, who is from China’s Zhejiang Province, was in 2011 hired by a Kaohsiung-based company to serve as acting captain of the Ping Shin No. 101, it said.
Court documents did not name the Taiwanese company or its owner.
Prosecutors said that they issued a detention warrant for Wang on Dec. 28, 2018, after he repeatedly did not report for questioning in connection with the case.
Maritime safety groups had suspected the Ping Shin No. 101’s involvement in the incident and it is unclear why prosecutors waited until 2018 to act.
In 2016, Greenpeace referred to the case in a report on human and labor rights abuses in Taiwan’s fishing industry.
Wang was detained on Aug. 22 last year, after the ship he was serving on at the time, the Seychelles-flagged Indian Star, made a call at the Port of Kaohsiung.
Although Wang is a Chinese national and the incident occurred in international waters, he was prosecuted in Taiwan, as the shooting occurred on a Taiwanese vessel.
In its ruling, the court said that Wang’s actions demonstrated that he had no respect for human life.
The ruling can be appealed.
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