Taylan’s Battle to Protect War Relics

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LISTEN to ABC Radio International Battle For Ballale interview (Nov 19, 08)

LISTEN to ABC Radio International Lost planes, Lost Men (Feb 3, 08)

LISTEN to NPR interview: A Travel Nightmare (Dec 14, 07)

WATCH 7 Australia News coverage (Dec 16, 07)

READ Australia Network Focus Balalai (Dec 9, 07)

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Diary of captivity in the Solomons [UPDATED]

Life in captivity

<p>The Shame of the Solomons</p>
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About Justin Taylan

Taylan searches out World War II plane wrecks, safeguards human remains, and returns dog tags to surprised veterans.
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December 13, 2007 @ 11:11 pm PST

December 14 (Court, Day 3)

39th Day in Captivity, Third Day in Court

The day actually started early, at 1:00 a.m., when I got a call from NPR (National Public Radio) in New York’s morning show, the Bryant Park Project. They had read the news, and requested an interview, which would take place at around 12:45 p.m. local time, 9:45 a.m. Eastern. It sure is a surreal “technological” moment to have our Solomon Islands cell phone ring and, on the other side, to hear New York.

They patched me into the show, and as I waited I could hear the tail end of the previous story, about Oscar picks and the he-said-she-said of Hollywood gossip relating to the nominations. Then the hosts, Alison and Luke, queue me up, introduce the story, and I was on! I was only able to answer one question before the line went dead. Back in contact, they recorded a 5- or 6-minute interview to tape, which they’ll play on the Friday show. They wished me luck. I asked them to eat a slice of New York pizza for me. That is one thing from home that I am missing right now!

Court resumed at 9:00 a.m. Today, the audience had grown by a few people, and both observers’ benches were full. The prosecution finished its case within the first hour and a half, and the magistrate called a short 15-minute recess.

Returning, it was time to begin our defense. I was the first witness called to speak and be cross-examined. The witness box looked like a shipping crate on its side, with a single, well-worn Bible on top of it. Taking the stand, I was sworn in. Unlike American courts, where the witness places a hand on the Bible, witnesses in Solomon Islands court hold the Bible up in the air while taking an oath to tell the truth. Many pages were loose and sticking out. I was worried that a page would fall out when I picked it up and took my oath. Luckily, the binding held firm.

I have seen plenty of courtroom dramas and TV court, but this was the first time I have ever been to court myself, let alone on trial. I learned quickly to shorten my answers to the most concise statement possible, as both the magistrate and the prosecutor had to write them out by hand. There was no typist, no microphone, nor any other modern technology in this court room, aside from an electric fan.

Once my part was finished, at 1:00 p.m, court was adjourned. Another case was to be heard in the afternoon, and it was back to “the waiting game” for us until tomorrow morning at 9:30.

We ate only ramen noodles last night and had nothing this morning, so all of us were thirsty and hungry throughout the trial. We were thankful that the trial ended at 1:00, as it is a hot day here. For the men, there is also laundry to be done. Since we each have only one presentable shirt for court, we must wash it in the afternoon so that it is dry before sunset.

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