Lawyers abandon ship in Somali pirate reenactment

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Lawyers of suspected Somali pirates participating Saturday in a reconstruction of the hijacking of a French luxury yacht slammed the exercise as a "masquerade" and abandoned proceedings.

Gregory Saint-Michel, who is representing one of the six suspects, said the reenactment in the southern French city of Nice was pointless as neither crew members nor defendants were allowed to make observations or ask questions.

"After three hours of this masquerade, we decided to leave," Saint-Michel told AFP.

The lawyers left the boat three hours after the reconstruction started.

"I don't know what purpose it served apart from taking photos on location for the judge's summary," said Saint-Michel.

The reenactment began at 09:00am as six men dressed in black and armed with machine guns approached the yacht in a dinghy.

The Somalis could be seen aboard the yacht without handcuffs but with bright-coloured harnesses, which were attached to police, according to an AFP reporter.

At one point, a police officer was seen carrying a rocket launcher

Pirates stormed the three-masted Ponant in the Gulf of Aden in April 2008, taking its 30 crew hostage and demanding a ransom.

In a dramatic operation, French special forces later captured the six men as they attempted to flee into the desert in a 4x4 vehicle with around 200,000 dollars (125,000 euros) of ransom in cash.

The six, aged 22 to 47, were taken to France to stand trial, but three refused to take part in Saturday's reconstruction.

The judge handling the case approved a defence request to reenact the incident, citing conflicting testimonies from crew members.

© 2010 AFP

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