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Somali pirates jailed for 439 years in Spanish court (AP)

A SPANISH court has sentenced two Somalis to 439 years in jail each for the 2009 hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat in the Indian Ocean and said government-linked bodies paid a ransom to secure the boat and crew’s release.

The National Court also said that those convicted were Cabdiweli Cabdullahi and Raageggesey Hassan Aji.

The Alakrana tuna boat with 36 crew was seized off Somalia in October 2009 and held for 47 days.

A reported $US3.3 million ($A3.02 million) ransom was paid. Spain says it does not pay ransoms but in the Alakrana case, the government said earlier it did what it had to do.

Spanish commandos captured the men as they sailed away from the boat during the hijacking.

  • [N.B.: Analysts fear that this ruling and the broken promise by the former Spanish Ambassador to Kenya to return these two Somalis to Somalia for having obtained the release of all the crew of FV ALAKRNA might have serious repercussions on the situation of the two Spanish hostages from FV VEGA 5 – see below.]

Somali pirates get 439-year sentences By Al Goodman (CNN)

  • The two were involved in the 2009 hijacking of the Spanish ship Alakrana
  • In an unusual move, the two were brought to Spain for trial

In a rare case, a Spanish court convicted two Somalia men of piracy in the 2009 takeover of a Spanish fishing vessel and sentenced each to 439 years in prison, according to a copy of the sentence viewed by CNN on Tuesday.

The long prison terms stem mainly from the conviction for illegal detention of the vessel’s 36 crew members, with a sentence of 11 years for each count of piracy, or 396 years.

In addition, the defendants were convicted on three other counts, including armed robbery and belonging to a criminal gang, which boosted the overall sentence to 439 years.

The vessel, the Alakrana, was freed in November 2009 after being held for 47 days off the coast of Somalia. The crew included 16 Spanish sailors and 20 from Africa and Asia.

A day after the hijacking by 12 armed pirates, Spanish military monitoring the situation captured two pirate suspects on Oct. 3, 2009 as they left the fishing vessel. Then authorities took the unusual step of bringing them to Madrid.

Many other pirate suspects who have been captured by international military forces — trying to ensure the safety of merchant shipping and fishing off the coast of Somalia — have been taken to African nations for court procedures, but not to Europe.

The Spanish court identified the two as Raageggesey Hassan Aji, of Ceel Maccan, Somalia, who was born in 1978, although his birthdate was not disclosed; and Cabdiweli Cabdullahi, of Marka, Somalia, with no age given, although the court determined before the trial that was an adult.

Defense lawyers argued unsuccessfully for their acquittal.

Despite the 439-year sentences, a court official told CNN that the likely maximum that could be served for such convictions is about 30 years.

Spanish media reported in 2009 that a ransom had been paid to free the ship, and a leading Spanish fishing industry executive, Juan Manuel Vietes, told CNN at the time he was certain a ransom was paid for the release of the tuna trawler, but he didn’t know the amount.

The Spanish government did not say how the ship had been freed.

Tension escalates as navies, pirates take off gloves AFP

The response to Somali piracy had so far seen a relatively codified game of cat-and-mouse play out on the Indian Ocean but experts fear a dangerous escalation is under way.

Somalia’s sea bandits hold some 40 vessels and 700 seafarers to ransom but observers fear the international community is still shunning more holistic remedies and simply doubling the dose of gunpowder.

After pirate attacks surged four years ago, naval missions deployed under European, US and NATO flags fanned out across the commercially crucial Gulf of Aden but piracy morphed and grew around the obstacle.
Now Somalia’s sea bandits hold some 40 vessels and 700 seafarers to ransom but observers fear the international community is still shunning more holistic remedies and simply doubling the dose of gunpowder.
“You cannot just send more warships. Simply increasing the volume and the tone will not ensure sustainable success,” said Michael Frodl, founder and head of C-level maritime risks consultancy.

While deadly incidents did occur in previous years, the scenario was well rehearsed and unwritten rules appeared to prevent an escalation. But navies have in recent weeks appeared to adopt a more muscular approach.
Warships have in particular targeted mother ships – previously hijacked vessels on which the pirates can take shelter before launching their attack skiffs – retaking or disabling close to 10 in barely a month.

“Things are changing and the situation is not good these days,” Abdi Yare, a top pirate commander in Hobyo told AFP.

“Allied forces thwarted several hijacking attempts and dozens of pirates have been arrested while several were also killed in the past few weeks. The circumstances will lead us to change our tactics again,” he said.
Ecoterra International, an environmental and human rights NGO monitoring maritime activity in the region, deplored the rise of aggressive operations.

“The main game-changer is willingness to chose attacking hostage ships, as manifested in the case of the Beluga Nomination,” against which failed raids by the Seychelles and NATO left three crewmen dead, Ecoterra told AFP.
One sequence could also prove a turning point: on April 15, the pirates released the MT Asphalt Venture, an Indian-operated tanker, for a ransom of 3.5 million dollars but kept seven Indian crew members.
They want to swap the hostages with around 120 suspected Somali pirates captured by the Indian navy.
“India has become public enemy number one for the pirates,” said Frodl, a US-based lawyer who also advises underwriters associated with Lloyd’s of London.

“Now you have a nation that has accumulated many Somali prisoners, and is also returning fire quite liberally at sea when making a stop and even killing Somali pirates in numbers.”He warned that as navies get tougher, the pirates could be inaugurating a new tactic by keeping a sample of nationals from naval powers onshore as an insurance policy against further military action.

Frodl also warned that ever tougher action by India could speed up a further expansion of the pirates’ scope east of the Maldives to an area south of India where the bandits could prey on an even bigger proportion of world traffic.
In 2008, the combined effect of the global economic downturn and spectacular catches by the pirates – most notably a huge Saudi tanker and an arms-laden Ukrainian vessel – sent the shipping industry running to the navies for help.
“Just like the US government bailed out the auto industry, the Western navies bailed out the world’s shipping industry when it was on the ropes after a one-two punch of lower orders and higher piracy,” Frodl argued.
Now with NATO engaged in a new conflict in Libya and other Western powers already stretched, the buck is being passed again, this time to India, whose waters are now within the pirates’ ambit, and other littoral states.

“The Indian government and military are trying to tell their people that they’re safe from threats at sea or coming from the sea,” Frodl said.

Source: Ecoterra

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