, PORT LOUIS, Nov 6 – Twelve Somali men tried for piracy were acquitted Thursday in Mauritius for lack of evidence, court officials said.
“The prosecution did not provide enough evidence to prove the guilt of the accused,” magistrate Wendy Rangan said, ending a year-long trial that began in October 2013.
The 12 men, aged between 20 and 45, were accused of attacking the Panamanian-flagged container ship MSC Jasmine in the Indian Ocean in January 2013, before being captured by European naval forces and transferred to Mauritius for trial.
Pirate attacks off Somalia have been slashed in recent years, with international fleets patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, as well as armed guards being posted aboard many vessels.
Foreign navies who capture suspected pirates have handed over hundreds to regional nations including Mauritius, as well as to Kenya, Seychelles and Tanzania.
Although Mauritius has not been directly affected by Somali piracy, the Indian Ocean island nation has feared for its maritime trade as well as the many luxury cruises that feed its economy.
At their peak in January 2011, Somali pirates held 736 hostages and 32 boats, some onshore and others on their vessels. Today, pirates hold at least 30 hostages but no major ships.