Taylan's Battle to Protect War Relics

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Diary of captivity in the Solomons [UPDATED]

Life in captivity

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 17, 2007 @ 3:21 am GMT-0500

December 17 (The Verdict)

No one ate anything the night before or for breakfast. We had exhausted our food supplies except for plain rice, and anyway we were too preoccupied.

We arrived at court at 9:30 a.m. After a 20-minute delay we were granted entry. Our friends were there in support.

The magistrate read the charges and summarized the prosecution and defense cases. He reviewed the facts of the case. His verdict: “Guilty on all counts.”

The prosecutor sought the maximum penalty allowed by law as a deterrent to other would-be tourists-turned-immigration-violators. Our defense attorney stressed that none of us had criminal records in the Solomon Islands or any other country. She reminded the court of our full compliance with the authorities and that we had already been detained for many weeks at great financial and personal expense. The magistrate said only, “The court will recess until 3:30 p.m. for sentencing.”

It happened so fast; we were stunned. The four of us did not talk, each lost in his or her own thoughts as we left the courthouse and walked back “home” — to our boat.

Was I about to spend the next three years of my life in a Solomon Islands prison? Had the court rejected the fact we arrived at a listed port of entry? Was this all happening over World War Two plane wrecks?

Gizo’s mobile phone network has been down for 30 hours. There would be no last call home.

Time crawled until 3:30 p.m. We returned to the court and again waited outside. Our friends tried to lighten the mood with funny jokes about jail. We were not laughing.

It was finally time. The magistrate ruled that a fine be imposed on all of us. For the offense of “unlawfully enter[ing] or [being] unlawfully present within Solomon Islands,” we were each fined SI$800 — roughly US$108. When paid, our passports would be returned.

He closed the proceedings with “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.”

An American friend pulled out his guitar and sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.” It sure sounded sweet. Our Shortland Island friends said simply, “This is a victory, you are free!”

There are so many stories to share. This has been a whirlwind of a life experience. We are exhausted.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the tremendous and unexpected outpouring of support for me, Rod, Yoji, and Daisy. We did our best to stand up for something we believe in. It sure would have been easier to pay the fine on day one and walk away. But that didn’t feel right.

We have fourteen days to appeal to the High Court if we wish to pursue this case. I’m not sure this matter is settled.

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