News & Views

HANS KLAAR: Released From Prison

Hans Klaar in custody

Hans Klaar, the legendary Swiss cruiser and boatbuilder who was jailed in South Africa on charges of rape earlier this year, was released from prison late last month and is now seeking to disseminate his version of the events that led to his incarceration. This comes to me by way of James Baldwin, who wrote a story about Hans that I edited for Cruising World magazine in 1998.

James has forwarded to me the following statement from Hans:

My arrest and subsequent extradition to South Africa to serve my sentence is by now old news; I am however saddened and shocked at the outcry and cheap sensationalism it has sparked amongst the sailing community and even some of my friends. I have decided it is time to break my silence and tell the truth about the events of that evening.

I had met the complainant, Ingrid Marteen, the previous night at a party hosted by a mutual friend and we hit it off immediately. We agreed to meet the following evening at a prearranged place in order to spend some time together. Ingrid Marteen arrived at this rendezvous as a completely voluntary and willing participant in what was to be an evening between lovers.

With her agreement we took my small dingy out to the middle of Durban's harbour and before long were kissing and fondling in the way mutually consensual lovers normally do. Ingrid removed her clothes on her own volition. What followed was that she was an active willing participant in a sex act that did not include intercourse. We got dressed, I started the outboard motor and proceeded back to the quay. I noticed that she was all of a sudden very quiet and broody, but ignored it, putting it down to disappointment on her part really.

You can't imagine how many times I have wondered why this woman lied about and exaggerated this incident and took it so far. I believe she had an axe to grind with men in general and had recently been dumped by some man. She also slept with my good friend two weeks prior to our incident and basically kicked him out of the flat by morning. He was quick to point out that he was amazed at her aggressiveness.

We were somewhat alcohol influenced - 3 beers at the time. But only thing I can come up with was the girl friend she was flatting with was a school mate of my wife and somehow jealous of our family and felt she should encourage her friend to make an example of me. It was this woman who went with Ingrid to the police and basically prompted her to such an extent that Ingrid couldn't back down without losing face to her friend. She seemed to be easily led.

She was somewhat mentally unbalanced, just considering her reactionary conversations concerning men. Today I would run a mile if some woman started talking about men like she did or at best tap my head, but then I was 32 and filled with the firm belief nothing would harm a good easy going guy like me.

I was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment by a lower Court who had ostensibly ignored the following:

1) The medical statement was inconclusive – no proof of penetration whatsoever had been established.

2) The official from the police who took the statement came forward on her own accord and testified in Court that she didn’t believe that Ingrid Marteen had been raped.

3) The statement of this alleged complainant was so crossed out, rephrased, and rewritten as to render it, quite frankly, ridiculous.

4) The Court ignored the evidence of a maritime expert who testified to the fact that such a small boat would have been swamped with water, if not capsized, had two people of the size of Ingrid Marteen and I been entangled in any struggle, let alone the type suggested by rape.

My legal team appealed against the conviction and sentence: the High Court found that there wasn’t enough to set aside the conviction, but did reduce my sentence to only three years imprisonment. This ridiculously low sentence for such a serious offense is obviously indicative of the views of the Court of Appeals on this incident.

I have had several legal experts look into the proceedings who have all shook heads in disgust as to the miscarriage of justice that occurred here, and I was advised to take my plight to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg.

As for my running away, well my fault is I just did not give it the gravity it deserved. The whole thing was an attention seeking fracas from the beginning. It wasn't much of a secret either as many of my then close friends knew all about it. And by the time we got word of the verdict, we where in Namibia and I was sure as hell not going to fly back and leave my wife and three small children alone in the middle of nowhere.

As for being a fugitive, well I never in my wildest dream thought that the SA police would bother with such an expensive quest and they didn't till January 2008. Also my then lawyer told me not to worry, that nothing will ever happen about it. I didn't act or feel like a fugitive either. I should have gone for a third appeal - might have taken another two years but I wasn't going to chuck any more money down this stupid hole.

In the end, penny wise pound foolish, I had a cheap corporate lawyer and should have got my self a proper criminal lawyer. But at the time I thought why should I when I didn't rape anybody. But I completely under estimated what a rape obsessed country like SA is and how tired the system was of convicting all these black on black rapists. Can you imagine how happy they where of being able to handle their first European case - a real Swiss sex tourist, that's how I was portrayed. --Hans Klaar




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