Suspected Somali pirates arrive in France
French lawyers prepare their case against six pirates accused of holding a French couple hostage.24 September 2008
PARIS -- Six suspected Somali pirates arrived in France on Tuesday as prosecutors prepared a case against them for supposedly taking a French couple hostage earlier in September.
Special forces rushed onto the Carre d'As yacht on 15 September to rescue its crew, a French couple who were kidnapped almost two weeks earlier. One suspect was killed and six more captured and flown to France.
It was the second French action against Somali pirates in 2008, and President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to punish the Somali pirates.
Parisian prosecutors are starting an investigation, which a legal source said would be performed by military police officers and would charge the six captives with hijacking, hostage-taking for ransom and conspiracy.
The suspects, who were captured in the Indian Ocean after a French raid, were immediately held on their arrival outside Paris.
A legal source said the gang demanded USD 2 million (EUR 1.36 million) for the safe return of the boat and its crew, but there were no talks before the raid.
The charges lead to life sentences and are the same charges facing six other Somalis captured in April. That case also involved a French raid responding to the capture of a French-owned yacht and the ransom of its crew.
Sarkozy promised that French forces will continue to fight piracy. France wants to create an international naval patrol to protect shipping off the Somali coast and escort humanitarian aid to Somalia.
Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, were seized by gangs off Somalia's 3,700-kilometre coastline in recent years, despite the Western navy ships located there to fight terrorism.
The pirates travel in powerful speedboats and are armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. They sometimes hold ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.
[AFP / Expatica]