Lack of Evidence Frees Three Somali Pirates
The Seychelles Court of Appeal has acquitted three suspected Somali pirates involved in an attack on a Danish naval vessel. Insufficient evidence to prove that they were pirates was the reason behind the ruling.
According to a Seychelles newspaper, the Court of Appeal judges “severely warned” the prosecution when delivering their ruling to make sure they have concrete evidence before prosecuting suspects.
The three men were arrested alongside 23 more alleged pirates off the Horn of Africa in January 2012. The Danish navy freed 14 Iranian and Pakistan hostages who were being held hostage on the ship on which the 25 Somali men were captured.
4 of the captured pirates were brought to Seychelles, another 4 were brought to Kenya to be prosecuted, while the 17 others were released.
Two of the three acquitted men were appealing against their 21-year sentence and the third, a 16-year-old, had received a sentence of 14 years. The fourth suspected Somali pirate who was brought to Seychelles together with them abandoned his appeal and had already been repatriated to Puntland where he is serving the 21 year sentence that was imposed on him.
The Seychelles News Agency reports that the suspected pirates’ lawyer stated that the fact that they were caught in international waters made it hard to gather evidence to prosecute them. The prosecution has to rely on coast guards to give evidence, or the crew of the international naval forces.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), that finances the trials and prosecution of Somali pirates in Seychelles, is expected to arrange for the repatriation of the 3 men back to Somalia.
A total of 41 Somali pirates were still being held in a Seychelles prison as of October. Out of this number, 25 Somali pirates have already been sentenced and are awaiting transfer to either of the two prisons in Puntland and Somaliland. The remaining 16 are still on remand awaiting trial.