Somalis face piracy trial in Germany: officials

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Ten Somalis will go on trial in Hamburg accused of piracy, officials said Tuesday, in what would be the first such case in the northern German city in around 400 years.

"We think we will be ready (to go to trial) towards the middle or the end of November," Ingo Frohboese, a spokesman for the court in Hamburg told AFP.

The gang, accused of attempted hostage-taking and an attack on maritime traffic, could face up to 15 years behind bars, prosecution spokesman Wilhelm Moellers added.

"This will be the first case for centuries here against alleged pirates," Moellers said.

The suspects were arrested by the Dutch navy in April after an attack on a German cargo ship off the Somali coast.

After an exchange of gunfire, the Dutch frigate Tromp freed the freighter Taipan that had been targeted by pirates about 900 kilometres (560 miles) east of the Somali coast, and arrested the 10 suspects.

The 15 crew members, who took refuge in a protected area of the ship, were all unharmed, but a Dutch soldier was lightly wounded in a firefight.

The accused were flown to the Netherlands in April from Djibouti, after Germany issued European arrest warrants for them.

A Dutch court later ruled they could be extradited to Germany.

Historian Ralf Wiechmann of the Hamburg Museum said that last trial of pirates in the former Hanseatic League city was likely four centuries ago.

Between 1390 and 1600, at least 533 pirates were executed in Hamburg.

This trial will take place in Hamburg because the ship was registered there.

In June, a Dutch court sentenced five Somali pirates, the first to stand trial in Europe, to five years in prison for attacking a Dutch Antilles-flagged ship in 2009.

© 2010 AFP

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