, SEOUL, June 1 – A Somali pirate was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday after he was found guilty of hijacking a South Korean-operated ship in the Arabian Sea.
Abdulahi Husseen Maxamuud was the fifth and final gang member to be sentenced after four others were given long jail terms last Friday.
They were seized when South Korean navy commandos recaptured the chemical carrier Samho Jewelry in a daring raid on January 21, six days after it was hijacked.
Lawyers said earlier that Maxamuud would be tried separately because he would plead guilty.
But on Wednesday he denied major involvement in the hijack, Yonhap news agency reported from the southern port city of Busan.
"I sincerely apologise for what happened… I was not involved in the crime because I was just the cook," the agency quoted him as telling judges, adding he had tried to restrain the other Somalis.
The court cleared him of the attempted murder of the ship\’s captain but convicted him of maritime robbery and other charges. It said he deserved a heavy penalty because he was involved in piracy and showed little repentance.
Prosecutors had demanded life imprisonment.
The trials were the country\’s first attempt to punish foreign pirates.
Eight pirates were killed in the commando raid and five arrested.
All 21 crew — eight South Koreans, two Indonesians and 11 from Myanmar — were freed unhurt apart from Captain Seok Hae-Kyun, 58, who is still recovering in hospital after multiple operations.
The court last Friday jailed Mahomed Araye for life for trying to murder the captain by shooting him with his AK rifle. Prosecutors had sought the death sentence for him.
Aul Brallat, said to have fired at the commandos during an initial unsuccessful raid on January 18, was jailed for 15 years, while two other pirates were each sentenced to 13 years.
Araye and Brallat have lodged an appeal against the ruling while two other convicted pirates are also expected to appeal, Yonhap said, adding prosecutors would seek heavier sentences on appeal.
Piracy has surged in recent years off Somalia, a lawless, war-torn country that sits alongside one of the world\’s most important shipping routes.
Investigators say some of the pirates involved in the January raid had taken part in the hijacking last year of a South Korean supertanker operated by the same firm as the Samho Jewelry.
The 300,000-tonne Samho Dream and its 24 crew were released after a reported $9 million ransom payment was made.