Somali pirate suspects arrive in Germany: authorities

10th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Ten alleged Somali pirates arrived in Germany Thursday after extradition from the Netherlands for what will likely be the first piracy trial in the northern port city of Hamburg in around 400 years.

A spokesman for the Hamburg prosecutor's office said that the suspects, one of whom is believed to be "at least 15 years old", were handed over to German federal police at the Dutch border and taken into custody.

He said the Somalis were suspected of attempted hostage-taking and an attack on maritime traffic and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

"We are still early on in the investigation and cannot say yet when the trial would begin," the spokesman said.

The suspects were arrested by the Dutch navy in April after an attack on a German cargo ship off the Somali coast.

After an exchange of gunfire, the Dutch frigate Tromp freed the freighter Taipan that had been targeted by pirates about 900 kilometres (560 miles) east of the Somali coast, and arrested the 10 suspects.

The 15 crew members, who took refuge in a protected area of the ship, were all unharmed, but a Dutch soldier was lightly wounded in the operation.

The suspects were flown to the Netherlands in April from Djibouti, after Germany issued European arrest warrants for them.

At a hearing last month, the Somalis had pleaded with the Dutch judge not to send them to Germany. Defence lawyers had argued that the ship attacked had been registered in the Bahamas and not in Germany as claimed.

But the Dutch court ruled June 4 they could be extradited.

Historian Ralf Wiechmann of the Hamburg Museum said that last trial of pirates in the former Hanseatic League city was likely four centuries ago.

Between 1390 and 1600, at least 533 pirates were executed in Hamburg.

© 2010 AFP

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