Pirate arrives in Belgium to face trial

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A suspected pirate accused of taking part in the hijacking of a Belgian ship off the coast of Somalia arrived in Belgium on Friday to face trial, the prosecutor's office said.

The man, whose name and nationality have not been disclosed, was flown into Brussels aboard a military plane two weeks after a Belgian frigate captured him and six other suspected pirates off the coast of Kenya, authorities said.

He was charged under Belgium's new anti-piracy law by a judge in the northern city of Bruges as well as a separate law on hostage-taking, the prosecutor's office said.

The suspect faces a hearing December 14 to determine whether the charges stand or not, and whether he will remain in custody.

The man was identifed as one of the assailants by three members of the Pompei, a Belgian ship that was seized in April 2009 off the coast of Somalia, the prosecutor's office said.

His fingerprints were allegedly found on the Pompei, which was released along with its crew three months later after a ransom was paid.

The man was detained in Kenyan waters aboard a skiff just as the suspects were dumping weapons and ladders into the ocean.

The man will be the first accused pirate to be tried in Belgium since an anti-piracy law was passed last year. Belgium is part of the European Union's counter-piracy naval mission off the Horn of Africa.

Germany held its first piracy trial in 400 years last month, with 10 Somalis facing charges of hijacking a Hamburg-registered ship.

Five Somalis suspected of having abducted two South Africans from their yacht off the Seychelles were transferred to the Netherlands Sunday for trial.

© 2010 AFP

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