Spanish judge urged to drop case against pirates

12th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spanish prosecutors said a newly-signed EU agreement states the pirates should be prosecuted in Kenyan courts.

MADRID – Spanish prosecutors Monday called on a judge to drop his case against seven suspected Somalia pirates who were arrested last week by a Spanish naval vessel, and release them to Kenyan authorities.

The prosecutors argued the seven should be taken to Kenya, which signed an agreement with the European Union in March to take suspected pirates detained by EU navies patrolling Somalia's waters and prosecute them in Kenyan courts.

The seven on Monday remained aboard the ship, the Marques de la Ensenada, which is taking part in the European anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia.

The group were captured in international waters in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday after their boat capsized when they were allegedly trying to board a Panamanian-flagged vessel.

National Court Judge Fernando Andreu on Thursday opened a preliminary investigation and ordered the defence ministry to bring the seven to Spain so they could be questioned under a new piracy law adopted in 2008 after a Spanish trawler and its crew were held hostage by Somali pirates.

On Friday, he bowed to prosecutors' requests and ordered their release, but argued that sending the suspects to Kenya to be prosecuted would violate their rights since an inquiry was already underway in Spain.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks off lawless Somalia increased tenfold in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2008, jumping from six to 61.

The heavily armed hijackers operate high-powered speed boats, sometimes holding ships for weeks before releasing them for large ransoms paid by governments or ship owners.

The EU naval mission, Atalanta, began operations in December 2008 in an effort to stop attacks in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest trade routes.

AFP / Expatica

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