Six Indonesian fishermen who admitted to killing their Chinese captain on board a registered Vanuatu fishing vessel have been sentenced to serve 18 years behind bars.
The Supreme Court also issued an order for the defendants to be deported to Indonesia when they become eligible for parole after nine years, which is around April 2026.
Mr Justice Daniel Fatiaki initially ordered 30 years imprisonment as the starting point but reduced to 28 years in recognition of each defendant’s ages that ranged from 21 years to 25 and the fact that they are all foreign citizens being sentenced in a country thousand kilometers away from home.
Justice Fatiaki then reduced the sentence by one year for mentioning their captain’s ill-treatment and discrimination against them in their police caution.
He then considered their early guilty plea that reduced their sentences to 18 years before backdating the sentence to April 30, 2017 when the killers were first remanded in custody.
He said that the fact of the case that led to the offending begun in the port city of Kaoshing in Taiwan from where the vessel Tunago No. 6 set sail on May 7, 2016 heading for fishing grounds in the Pacific.
He said that on board the vessel were the deceased, Captain Xie Dingrong and countryman and Chief engineer Zhang Dapeng and other remaining 26 crew members that comprised of six Vietnamese, seven Filipino and 13 Indonesians, including the defendants.
The Court found that on September 8, 2016 engineer Dapeng reported the killing to the owners of the vessels in Taiwan while the ship was sailing for Suva, Fiji.
The shipping agent in Fiji was also informed and the matter was reported to the police.
After caution Saepul Manap, Andi Riyadi, Riva Pranga Kliswanrio, Abdul Hasan Sidik, Suheri Meivan and Ade Marwadi admitted killing their captain and kept his body in the fish cooler until they reached Fiji.
The Indonesians were then extradited to Vanuatu at the request of the government.
Justice Fatiaki said that the offending was brutal, premeditated and merciless and happened late at night by at least four armed defendants acting at the same time against their unarmed defenceless captain sleeping in his bed.
The court found that they used weapons such as fishing knives, a scissor, and a hammer.
The attack was indiscriminate and even if the victim would have called out he would have never been successful in trying to evade the group.
“The ferocity and frenzied nature of the attack is evidenced by the location, nature and number of injuries that were inflicted on the deceased body,” he said.
“In total there were approximately 41 slash and stab wounds to the deceased scalp, face, neck, upper torso, both his arm and hands and his abdomen and left thigh and leg.
“There can be no doubting the homicidal intentions of the deceased’s attackers nor has this court had ever had to deal with a case such as this of wanton uncontrolled, violence with such a disdain for human life.”
Fatiaki said that nothing his court will say will bring back the deceased’s life, the father of a girl who is now orphaned and a husband of a wife who is now widowed.
“This is a heavy burden that each of you personally bear for the rest of your life knowing that you willingly and knowingly participated in the taking of Xie Dingrong’s life,” he said.
“Fortunately for you, Vanuatu unlike your own country does not have the death penalty.”
He said that according to their pre-sentence report, the Indonesians said that before they boarded the ship MV Tunago No. 61, they were told that everything will be provided such as food, medication and salary.
The Indonesians claimed that they worked for a year and four months without salary and upon inquiry, the captain kept on telling them that the payments will come soon.
They mentioned that they were treated different to other nationalities onboard the ship.
The court was told that often the captain forced them to eat the food like cans of pork knowingly that it is contrary to their Muslim belief.
They said that sometimes they had to eat the fishing baits to stay alive while working for 22 hours and rest for four to six hours.
The fishermen said that they were denied phone calls and money advances.
Justice Fatiaki said in his findings that one of the killers sustained injury while cleaning the fishes and ran to the captain for band aid to stop the bleeding but the deceased refused him; he then asked for the second time and the captain slapped him.
In his judgement Fatiaki said that the Prosecution also sought for a monetary compensation order in their supplementary sentencing submission to be paid the deceased’s families.
He said that the court is obliged to consider a sentence of compensation but recommended a civil proceeding to deal with the matter.