French prosecutors urge tough sentences for Somali 'pirates'

28th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

French prosecutors urged a court on Monday to impose tough sentences of up to 16 years in prison on six Somali men on trial in Paris for taking a French couple hostage on their yacht.

"We cannot compromise on the fate and the freedom of our citizens," lead prosecutor Anne Obez-Vosgien told the court.

The "misery" of life in war-torn Somalia, she added, cannot "justify crime".

The six men, aged between 21 and 36, are facing charges of hijacking, kidnapping and armed robbery after they allegedly seized the yacht and its crew, Jean-Yves Delanne and his wife Bernadette, both aged 60, off the coast of Somalia in 2008.

The six were captured and flown to France after French special forces stormed the yacht, the Carre d'As IV, and rescued the couple. A seventh suspect was killed in the raid.

Obez-Vosgien called on the court to hand down three sentences of between 14 and 16 years, one of 13 to 15 years, one of eight years and one of six years.

The three longest sentences were demanded for the alleged ringleaders of the group while the shortest sentence was urged for one of the accused who was a minor at the time of the hostage-taking.

A verdict in the trial, which marks the first time France has prosecuted alleged Somali pirates, is due on Wednesday.

Somali suspects in three other cases are currently awaiting trial in France.

Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been seized by gangs off Somalia's 3,700-kilometre (2,300-mile) coastline in recent years.

The pirates travel in high-powered speedboats and are armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. They sometimes hold ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.

© 2011 AFP

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