French prosecutor seeks jail for six Somalis in piracy trial

June 12, 2012 2:55 am


Pirates preparing their weapons for attack/FILE
PARIS, June 12 – The prosecutor in the Paris trial of six Somalis charged with holding crew of a luxury sailing ship hostage in the Gulf of Aden in 2008 on Monday called for sentences of up to 15 years.

“These six men you are going to judge … seriously endangered French lives,” prosecutor Bruno Sturlese told the court.

“They were ready to sacrifice them to get money,” he added.

Somali pirates seized 30 crew members of the luxury yacht Le Ponant in the pirate-infested waters in April 2008 and held them for ransom.

French special forces arrested the six men, aged 25 to 50, in an airborne operation after a ransom had been paid.

Only one of them admits to being a pirate. Two admit to having been aboard the elegant 88-metre (290-foot) three-master but only to sell goats, cigarettes and the mild narcotic khat. The other three deny ever having set foot on the boat.

Sturlese called for a 15-year sentence against Ismael Ali Samatar, 31, the only one to have admitted his role in the crime. The prosecutor said he had played a greater role in the hostage-taking operation than the others.

But he said the others were also implicated, having been arrested aboard an off-road vehicle that had $181,000 in it.

The verdict in the case, which opened on May 22, is expected late Thursday.

A total of 22 Somalis are being held by France in connection with four hostage-taking incidents.

Last year a Paris court jailed five pirates for between four and eight years for hijacking the Carre d’As in the Gulf of Aden in September 2008. A sixth alleged pirate was acquitted.

Prosecutors are appealing those sentences as being too lenient.


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