Piracy trial opens in Mombasa

April 22, 2009 12:00 am

, MOMBASA, Kenya, Apr 22 – A case where nine suspected Somalia pirates arrested by the German Navy in the Indian Ocean has begun in Mombasa.

German Ambassador to Kenya Walter Lindner attended the first hearing of the case on Wednesday where the suspects are facing piracy charges.

The ambassador, who was seated behind the state counsels and the suspects’ lawyer, listened to the proceedings of the case as a battery of foreign journalists who had accompanied him, recorded the proceedings.

Other senior German officials including the consulate Sadik Ghalia, and officers of the German naval ship also attended the session.

The pirates were handed over to the Kenyan authorities by the German Navy, which brought two groups of suspected pirates to Kenya.

During the hearing, a helicopter pilot assigned to the UN Navy Cruiser Anthony Graham said how his team had to fire at the suspected pirates, to stop them from attacking a merchant ship.

The pilot told Senior Resident Magistrate Teresia Mwangi that his team was on normal patrol when they received a distress call that a merchant ship was under the pirates’ attack.

“We were conducting piracy operations at the Gulf of Eden when the distress call was sent via the VHF radio that MV Courier was under attack,” he said.

The Captain of MV Courier had reported that there was a small boat approaching them at high speed and had begun firing at them.

“They reported their position and we monitored them from the helicopter’s navigation system shortly before we got to them,” he said.

The pilot said the vessel had reported that the pirates were firing at them using automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades, though there were no casualties or damages.

The official said the helicopter arrived at the scene 20 minutes after the distress call and saw four men on a skiff.

He said they had to circle the pirates in attempts to make them stop and maintain visual contact with them.

The pirates’ lawyer, Jared Magolo asked the court to visit the scene of crime, so as to ascertain whether it had jurisdiction to handle the suspects, but the application was rejected.

Hearing of the case continues on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a French naval ship – the Nivose – docked at the port of Mombasa on Wednesday carrying 11 pirates arrested last week.

The pirates were handed over to the Kenyan authorities at the Mbaraki Wharf, where the ship docked.

The pirates were whisked away under heavy security to the Port of Mombasa Police Station, where they were locked in ahead of a court appearance on Thursday.

Mombasa Port Deputy Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) Benjamin Rotich said the suspects would be tried over the alleged attack on a cargo ship, the Safmarine, an Asian vessel 500 nautical miles off Mombasa, in the Indian Ocean.

"We have four AK-47 machines and 200 ammunitions as exhibits from the pirates," narrated the police boss.

"We shall continue interrogating the pirates today (Wednesday) to gain more evidence before we take them to court tomorrow (Thursday)," added Mr Rotich.

He said the pirates were in a mother ship transporting fuel when the pirates tried to hijack the Asian vessel.

The Nivose, carrying a helicopter onboard, is serving in the international fleet to protect the Gulf of Aden’s trade.

French Ambassador to Kenya Elisabeth Barbier on Wednesday went aboard the Nivose, where she commended the French naval officers on board.



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