Spain launches judicial proceedings against pirates

5th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spain launched judicial proceedings Sunday against two Somali pirates who took part in the hijacking of a Spanish tuna trawler that remained in the hands of bandits near the Somali coast, a judicial official said.

Madrid - Spain launched judicial proceedings Sunday against two Somali pirates who took part in the hijacking of a Spanish tuna trawler that remained in the hands of bandits near the Somali coast, a judicial official said.

Baltasar Garzon, the investigating magistrate at Spain's National Audience, the country's top criminal court, is considering whether to charge the two with kidnapping and terrorism related to the seizure of the Alakrana, the source said.

The two pirates were captured early on Sunday by a Spanish frigate which followed them after they left the Spanish trawler on a smaller boat, General Jaime Dominguez Buj told a news conference.

One of the pirates was slightly wounded during the arrest by warning shots fired by the Spanish military, he said.

The Alakrana and its 36-member crew, comprised of sailors from Spain, Indonesia, Ghana, Madagascar, Senegal and the Seychelles, were seized by the pirates Friday in the high seas between Somalia and the Seychelles.

It is being monitored by two navy warships -- one from Spain and the other from France -- in the region as part of the European Union's anti-piracy mission. The trawler was anchored Sunday a few miles off the Somali coast.

"We are not going to do anything that could put the well-being of the fishermen at risk," said Dominguez Buj.

The pirates gave the trawler's crew permission to call their families for a few minutes.

"We are all very well," the trawler's captain told Spanish public television TVE, before adding he had to keep the conversation short to allow crew members to use the phone to call their families.

The captain also briefly spoke with Spain's ambassador in Kenya and said the crew was in the ship's dining hall, the Spanish government said.

Spain's El Pais newspaper said 13 pirates are believed to be aboard the trawler. Dominguez Buj refused to confirm the figure.

The pirates seized the Alakrana because it had "been fishing illegally for a long time" in the area, a Somali pirate who gave his name as Abdi Mohamed told AFP by telephone on Saturday.

But the daughter of the ship's captain, Cristina Blach, said the trawler was in international waters and operating legally.

"They had licences to fish in the area," she told reporters.

The Spanish government has set up a crisis team headed by Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega to work to secure the vessel's release. It includes members from the defence, foreign and interior ministries.

In April 2008 a Spanish tuna trawler was captured by pirates in the waters near Somalia and its crew held for six days before being freed.

The government has not confirmed reports that the pirates were paid a ransom of USD 1.2 million (EUR 825,000).

The hijacking of the Alakrana brings to at least five the number of vessels in the hands of Somali pirates. The others include a Taiwanese fishing vessel and Ukrainian, German and Turkish freighters.

AFP/Expatica

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