Thousands demonstrate for release of Spanish crew

8th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday calling for the release of the 36 crewmen of a Spanish tuna trawler being held by Somali pirates under the threat of death.

Bermeo - Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday calling for the release of the 36 crewmen of a Spanish tuna trawler being held by Somali pirates under the threat of death.

They gathered at Bermeo in the northern Spanish Basque country, home port of the trawler Alakrana, which was seized off Somalia more than a month ago.

Leading Basque politicians joined in the protest, held in driving rain. A second demonstration was planned for later Saturday in the northwestern port city of Vigo.

The crew's families appealed to Spain's government on Friday to negotiate with the kidnappers, who have threatened to kill the hostages.

They urged Spanish authorities to release two suspected pirates who were captured and brought to Spain over their alleged role in the seizure of the boat, as demanded by the kidnappers.

The Spanish government has ruled out freeing the suspects but did not rule out transferring them to the court system of an African country, like Kenya, as happened in a similar case in May.

Three crew members who had been removed from the trawler on Thursday in what was seen by the Spanish government as a bid to up the pressure on Madrid to give in to the pirates' demands were returned to the vessel on Friday, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.

"What does this mean? It means we must remain calm. Kidnappings are complicated situations, with highs and lows, they are very difficult and stressful. But we must remain confident and calm," he told a news conference.

"If we remain calm and confident I am certain of what all Spaniards want, what the families want, what the government wants -- that the hostages can return to their homes safe and sound and this kidnapping ends satisfactorily."

Ricardo Blach, the skipper of the Alakrana, told Spanish media on Thursday that the pirates had threatened to kill three of them in three days unless their demands were met.

The pirates, who seized the boat on 2 October, are demanding USD 4 million dollars (EUR 2.6 million) ransom as well as the release of the two held by Spain.

In addition to 16 Spaniards, the crew includes eight Indonesians as well as others from Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Senegal and the Seychelles.

AFP/Expatica

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