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Hamburg court jails ten Somali pirates

The Local · 19 Oct 2012, 16:17

Published: 19 Oct 2012 16:17 GMT+02:00

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Trying the Somalis, aged between 19 and 50, had been a mammoth task for Hamburg’s justice authorities, involving 105 days in court, a flood of evidence and statements, and countless translations.

On Friday, the court handed down sentences of between six and seven years for the seven adults, and two years of youth detention for the three men charged as juveniles.

The armed men stormed the Taipan on April 5, 2010 and hijacked the 140-metre long container ship belonging to the Hamburg shipping firm Komrowksi.

The Taipan's 15-member crew managed to evade capture by the pirates by taking refuge in a so-called "panic room" hidden within the ship.

But the pirates did not keep control for long – a Dutch frigate came to the rescue, and after a short gunfight, the pirates were arrested. Their five machine guns and two rocket launchers were confiscated.

The Taipan, which was travelling under a German flag, was en route from Haifa to Mombasa and was around 980 kilometres from the Somali coast when the pirates struck. They had intended to take the crew hostage and demand a ransom.

They were extradited to Germany in June 2010 and have been in custody since then.

Defence lawyers had argued that trying the men in Germany was ridiculous given the differences between the two countries.

“We are laying down the law according to our German standards, over people whose lives we cannot even begin to imagine,” said Rainer Pohlen, defence lawyer for the youngest defendant.

"My homeland has collapsed. I beg the presiding judge, be fair," one of the men said through a court interpreter.

But Ralf Nagel, presidium manager of the Association of German Shipowners said: “Piracy is a crime and criminals belong in court.”

Court spokesman Conrad Müller said the Hamburg court was taking on a piece of international responsibility by trying the case.

After a spike at the start of the last decade, successful pirate attacks on commercial vessels sailing off the Horn of Africa have diminished, with the pirates deterred by an international deployment of warships patrolling the coast.

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In 2011, some 176 attacks were recorded, and 34 have taken place so far this year, according to the latest statistics from Operation Atalanta, the European Union's anti-piracy deployment to the region.

Pirates currently control six ships and hold an estimated 156 crew members hostage.

DAPD/DPA/AFP/The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:07 October 19, 2012 by twisted
I am pleased about the conviction...I suspect that time in jail for these men will be better than being in Somalia and walking free....three meals a day, a bed to sleep on, free medical care. They probably will want to stay in jail when their sentences are completed.
17:38 October 19, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Germany laying the law down again according to German standards. Don't they always do that. Make the world into a German state. OK in this case there is no sympathy for the pirates and the seas are better off without them but really this is ridiculous. Trying people for a crime committed far far away in a German court. Why not a UK court or an American court for that matter.
19:26 October 19, 2012 by rwk
@Berlin fuer alles - because the crimes were committed against a german flagged ship in International waters. Without another competent with jurisdiction, Germany has every right to try these pirates. And @twisted - yes, they may be fed and housed better by the German prison system better they would live in their home country, but without that essential thing: freedom of movement and freedom of association. I wonder how well other prisoners will treat them in jail.
19:54 October 19, 2012 by The-ex-pat
A double edged sword. Great that justice has been done, however once the sentences have been served there will be a bunch of lawyer ready to take on the case that it will be against their human rights to be sent back.................
21:04 October 19, 2012 by avatar009
Does the german warships protect illegal spanish and greece and other EU. countries?; yes is double edged sword prosecuting only nun EU.
22:13 October 19, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
@rwk So why can't we put Angie on trial in Greece for screwing up their lives? By the way the crimes were not committed in Germany or under German juristiction so Germany has no right to put these individuals on trial in Germany. The territory where they committed the crimes has jurisdiction. Just because they do not live by German standards but by their own lawless standards is a problem to be addressed politically. There is plenty of lawlessness around the world. Is Germany to choose where it goes to impose it's own rules? I hear an outcry if anyone mentions living by their own laws in Germany. :-) Double standards I think.
09:32 October 20, 2012 by ovalle3.14
These are guys are lucky they didn't attack a ship sailing under the US flag. They wouldn't be looking at 6 years in the slammer...
11:08 October 20, 2012 by mafketis
Berlin fuer alles: "The territory where they committed the crimes has jurisdiction"

The crimes were committed in international waters and the ship was flying the German flag.

According to wikipedia (usual caveats): "Ships sailing the high seas are generally under the jurisdiction of the flag state;] (if there is one) however, when a ship is involved in certain criminal acts, such as piracy, any nation can exercise jurisdiction under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction"

Unless you have other references to hand, it appears your concerns about jurisdiction and Germany usurping internation law seem to be completely unfounded. It appears that Germany has every right to try, pass sentence and imprison them.
21:23 October 20, 2012 by raandy
Berlin fuer alles thats quite an analogy comparing Mrs Merkel's stance on austerity to piracy on the high sea involving a German Flagged vessel. brilliant .
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