Seven-year jail terms sought in Europe's first trial of Somali pirate suspects

26th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prosecutors sought seven-year jail terms Wednesday for five Somali men accused of attempting to hijack a Dutch Antilles-flagged ship in the Gulf of Aden last year with rockets and guns.

"We asked for prison sentences of seven years for all five for piracy," prosecution spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP.

The suspects, Abdirisaq Abdulahi Hirsi, 33, Osman Musse Farah, 32, Farah Ahmed Yusuf, 25, Sayid Ali Garaar, 39 and Jama Mohamed Samatar, 45, risked up to 12 years in jail for the attack on January 2, 2009.

They told the Rotterdam district court on Tuesday they had done nothing wrong despite two of them admitting they had initially set out to sea with ambitions of piracy.

The men claimed they had approached the ship, the Samanyolu, for help with their hands in the air after their boat developed engine trouble and they ran out of food and water at sea.

According to the prosecution, however, a Danish frigate intercepted the men's high-speed boat as they prepared to board the Samanyolu after attacking it with automatic weapons and rockets.

Dutch authories issued European arrest warrants for the five men three weeks after their arrest, 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, which opened Tuesday, is expected to last five days and judgement is set to be handed down on June 16.

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.

A Dutch court is currently mulling the extradition to Germany of 10 alleged pirates arrested by the Dutch navy in April for allegedly attacking a German cargo ship off the Somali coast.

© 2010 AFP

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