, COPENHAGEN, Jun 18 – Twenty-four pirates arrested in May off the Somali coast and held on a Danish warship will be handed over to face trial in Kenya, the Danish foreign ministry said Friday.
"The 24 pirates are to be handed over for prosecution to Kenya. This will happen as soon as possible," the head of the Danish foreign ministry\’s legal department, Thomas Winckler, told AFP.
"They will be prosecuted in Kenya for hijacking an Iranian vessel from which they were captured," he added.
On May 12, the Esbern Snare warship attacked a ship held by pirates, freeing their 16 Iranian hostages and killing four of the sea bandits.
Winckler explained that Denmark had been unable to prosecute the men itself since it could not prove who had fired shots at Danish forces during a brief gun battle when the vessel was ordered to stop.
"These are two different issues. Denmark was looking at the issue of shots fired at its personnel, while Kenya is looking at the original hijacking of the Iranian ship," he said.
During a visit to Stockholm Friday, Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen said she was glad the pirates would face justice.
"It has been a very big problem of the international community that way too many pirates have been let go because of lacking evidence," she said.
Handing over the pirates will mark "the first visible evidence that we are managing to get (countries) to step up and help put the pirates in front of a judge," she said.
"I hope this means that more pirates will be going to prison for many years," she added.
Seven Danes — a couple, their three adolescent children and two other adults — were in February captured by pirates in the Indian Ocean around 300 nautical miles from Somalia, and are still being held captive.