This unprecedented action by the authorities in seizing a legitimately registered ship in international waters caused an immediate storm of protest.
An Amsterdam Court was asked on 24th August 1981 to decide whether the owners of the Magda Maria could have the radio ship returned to them. This was something of a test case because, with the ship having being seized whilst in international waters, the Dutch Navy and Public Prosecutor were being accused of piracy by the vessel's owners. Compania Naviera Panlieve SA, through their Dutch lawyer Reinier de Jonge, asked the Court to allow the ship to be returned to its position in international waters within 48 hours.
Although judgement was supposed to be given on 3rd September 1981, the Court decided that the matter would have to be referred on to the High Court. A hearing before the High Court some two weeks later resulted in the Dutch Government accepting that they had been wrong to seize the ship and agreeing that the Magda Maria was free to leave port with all her equipment still on board, except for the transmitter crystals.
The vessel's owners decided, on legal advice, not to move the ship but to seek a further Court hearing for repossession of the transmitter crystals. It was not until December 1982, some 15 months later, that this issue was finally resolved when the Courts ruled that no operating transmitter equipment could be aboard the ship when she left Holland.
Meanwhile, far from capitulating as the authorities had hoped once the ship had been seized the backers of Radio Paradijs also instructed lawyers to take action against the Dutch Government for the alleged act of piracy. Unfortunately for the proposed radio station the complex legal argument over the release of the Magda Maria was to drag on for many year while the ship herself remained neglected in Amsterdam.
A hearing in the Radio Paradijs case had been set for 12th September 1985 and at that time plans still existed for the station to return to the air. In anticipation of a favourable judgement the Magda Maria was taken from the Europort Harbour in Amsterdam at the end of August 1985 for refurbishment work. However, on September 12th the High Court in The Hague adjourned the case relating to the release of the vessel to 23rd January 1986 as it was claimed the Dutch Government needed more time to obtain information about the registration of the Magda Maria when she was seized by the Dutch Navy in 1981.
The Dutch courts ruled on 29th May 1986 that the ship could be released, complete with studios and transmitting equipment, but this decision was not formally conveyed to the owners, the Pan Lieve organisation, until September, some four months later. It had taken five years of legal argument for the vessel's owners to secure her release, but it transpired that the ship had not been maintained or protected in any way whilst in the custody of the authorities and she had been extensively vandalised. The Magda Maria was eventually broken up in 1987 in Belgium.
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Video showing the Magda Maria in Amsterdam
Ship and Location
Video showing the Magda Maria at a scrapyard in Zeebrugge, 1989
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