Pirate to face trial in Belgium: defence ministry

9th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A suspected pirate will be extradited to Belgium on Friday to face accusations that he took part in the hijacking of a Belgian vessel off Somalia in 2009, the defence minister said Thursday.

The man, whose name and nationality were not disclosed, was part of a group of seven suspected pirates captured off the coast of Kenya by a Belgian frigate last month, Defence Minister Pieter De Crem said.

"He was handed to federal police today (Thursday) and should arrive, if all goes according to plan, in Belgium on Friday," De Crem told the Belgian parliament's defence committee.

The suspect was identifed as one of the assailants by three members of the Pompei, a Belgian ship that was seized in April 2009 off the coast of Somalia, the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said.

His fingerprints were found on the Pompei, which was released along with its crew three months later after a ransom was paid.

The man was detained in Kenyan waters aboard a skiff just as the suspects were dumping weapons and ladders into the ocean.

Kenya stood ready to prosecute the six other suspects, said Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere.

The man will be the first accused pirate to be tried in Belgium since an anti-piracy law was passed last year. Belgium is part of the European Union's counter-piracy naval mission off the Horn of Africa.

Germany held its first piracy trial in 400 years last month, with 10 Somalis facing charges of hijacking a Hamburg-registered ship.

Five Somalis suspected of having abducted two South Africans from their yacht off the Seychelles were transferred to the Netherlands Sunday for trial.

© 2010 AFP

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