The legal process against Swedish fishermen for allegedly illegal fisheries offshore Western Sahara, has been postponed. The case is now appealed to the Supreme Court of Sweden.
In April 2009, two Swedish fishermen were charged in a Swedish court of having operated off the coasts of Western Sahara without general fishing permissions from Sweden, as well as carrying out fisheries operating outside of the scope of the EU fisheries partnerships. One of the vessels was boarded by Greenpeace activists in 2008 (photo).
According to the prosecutor, the two vessels had earned 14 million kroners in 2007 and 6 million Swedish kroners in 2008, in total around 1,9 million Euros. These are pure profits, after local licences and salaries have been paid. These figures are said to be proved in documents which the Swedish police found upon raiding the home of one of the fishermen.
However, the case is still not decided.
The fishermen have claimed that the district court of Gothenburg is not in a position to pass a sentence on matters taking place abroad. After several twists and turns, the case has reached the highest level of the Swedish court system, the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court decides not to do anything on the matter, the case returns to the district court of Gothenburg where it all started. The district court says it is indeed within their jurisdiction to decide on such matters.
“The chain of events in this case has been highly unusual. The accused are trying to delay the process and perhaps hope for the district court to lose interest in the case. But we won't”, said the state prosecutor to the Swedish magazine Västsahara.
According to the prosecutor, a decision could conclude with imprisonment or severe fines for the fishermen involved.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.