First European trial of Somali pirate suspects opens
Five Somalians appeared in court in the Netherlands on Tuesday accused of trying to hijack a cargo ship, in the first ever European trial of suspected Somali pirates.
The group, who were seized last year after allegedly preparing to raid a vessel in the Gulf of Aden using automatic firearms and rockets, face up to 12 years in jail in the case at Rotterdam district court.
The five greeted their lawyers with big smiles as they entered the dock, watched by a heavy police contingent and dozens of local and international media.
"Today, your trial begins in earnest," the presiding judge told Farah Ahmed Yusuf, 25, Jama Mohamed Samatar, 45, Sayid Ali Garaar, 39, Abdirisaq Abdulahi Hirsi, 33 and Osman Musse Farah, 32, after swearing in three translators.
"You are not obliged to answer any questions, nor to make any statements," he said.
The Somalians were held on January 2 last year after a Danish frigate intercepted their high-speed boat as they allegedly prepared to board the Dutch Antilles-flagged Samanyolu.
The Netherlands issued European arrest warrants for the five three weeks later, and they were flown on a military plane from Bahrain the following month to the Netherlands, where they have been in custody ever since.
The trial is expected to last five days and judgment is set to be handed down on June 16, said Vincent de Winkel, a spokesman for the Rotterdam district court.
The men's alleged leader could be jailed for up to 12 years and the rest for nine years.
According to the London-based International Maritime Bureau, which monitors maritime crime, pirates attempted 215 attacks on merchant ships off the Somali coast in 2009.
Last Tuesday, a Yemeni court sentenced six Somali pirates to death and jailed six others for 10 years each for hijacking a Yemeni oil tanker and killing two cabin crew in April last year.
© 2010 AFP