Prosecutors demand 7-year sentences for Somali pirates

Dutch prosecutors today demanded seven-year prison sentences for five Somali men accused of attempting to hijack a cargo ship, in Europe`s first piracy trial stemming from the rising tide of banditry in the Gulf of Aden.

Last Updated: May 26, 2010, 23:59 PM IST

Rotterdam (Netherlands): Dutch prosecutors
today demanded seven-year prison sentences for five Somali men
accused of attempting to hijack a cargo ship, in Europe`s
first piracy trial stemming from the rising tide of banditry
in the Gulf of Aden.

The five suspects were arrested by Danish marines in
January 2009 after they tried to board a Dutch Antilles-
registered freighter off the coast of Somalia.

They claim they were not hijacking the ship, but asking
its crew for food and fuel because their skiff`s engine had
been malfunctioning.

At a court hearing yesterday, most of the suspects
claimed they were on a fishing expedition. One said they had
set out to hijack ships, but changed their minds when their
engine failed and left them drifting for three days.

But prosecutors rejected that claim as not credible and
asked judges to sentence each man to seven years. They are
charged with the crime of "sea robbery," which has been on the
Dutch books since the 17th century. The maximum sentence is 12
years.

No date has been set for a verdict.

A spokesman for the European Union`s anti-piracy force,
Commander Anders Kallin, said yesterday the trial is unlikely
to end piracy in lawless and impoverished Somalia, regardless
of the outcome.

"To end piracy you need to have a solution on shore. The
problem is in Somalia. And we don`t have permission to go
there," Kallin said.

In Europe, piracy suspects are being held in France,
Spain and the Netherlands, but the Dutch are the first to put
any on trial.

In the United States, a Somali man pleaded guilty last
week to hijacking the US-flagged ship Maersk Alabama on April
8, 2009, and kidnapping its captain. He faces a minimum 27
years in prison.

Kenya has convicted 18 pirates since 2007, and more than
100 others on trial.

In Seychelles, 40 piracy suspects are on trial.

PTI