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Spanish judge frees ‘minor’ Somali pirate

Madrid – A Spanish judge ordered the release Tuesday of one of two suspected Somali pirates thought to have taken part in the seizure of a Spanish tuna trawler, because he may only be 17 years old.

Prosecutors however decided to place the boy in a centre for minors until a children’s court can decide his fate, a judicial source said.
Last week Judge Baltazar Garzon ordered the two remanded into custody after deciding they were 19 and 31 years old.

But more comprehensive tests were carried out at a Madrid hospital to determine the exact age of the youngest suspect who claimed to be underage.

"We can establish a minimum age of 17, given that the exams carried out do not allow us to be totally certain that he has reached the age of majority," wrote the medical report cited by the judge in his written ruling.

Given that there was a doubt regarding the age of the suspect, the judge "decided to immediately release the minor", it added. His case will now be handled by a court for children.

The two suspects are believed to have played a role in the seizure of the Spanish trawler Alakrana on 2 October in the Indian Ocean.

They were detained two days later by a Spanish frigate as they left the ship in a skiff and brought to Spain.

The Alakrana is currently being held off Somalia while Spanish negotiators are trying to obtain the release of its 36-member crew, who include 16 Spaniards, as well as Asians and Africans.

The pirates are demanding USD 4.0 million (EUR 2.8 million) for the release of the ship and its crew as well as the liberation of the two suspected pirates being held in Spain.

Family members of the crew of the Alakrana demanded Tuesday that Spanish authorities inform them of the state of their negotiations with the pirates.

"It has been 18 days since they were taken hostage and four days since we last had contact with the ship…this is why we are demanding to be informed by the relevant authorities," they said in a statement released in Spain.

In April 2008 a Spanish tuna trawler was captured by pirates in the waters near Somalia and its crew held for six days before being freed.

The government has not confirmed reports that the pirates were paid a ransom of USD 1.2 million.

AFP / Expatica