Ruling awaited in French trial of Somali "pirates"
Nov 30, 2011, 10:21 GMT
Paris - A French jury was due to rule Wednesday on the fate of six suspected Somali pirates, who were put on trial in Paris on charges of taking a French couple hostage aboard their yacht in 2008.
Jean-Yves and Bernadette Delanne, both aged 62, were intercepted off the coast of Somalia as they were sailing from Australia to France in September 2008.
After two weeks French special forces stormed the yacht and freed the couple, killing one suspected pirate in the operation.
Six others, the youngest of whom is now aged 21 and the oldest 35, were arrested and transferred to France, where they were held in pre-trial detention for three years before the case finally went to court in mid-November.
The state prosecutor on Monday asked the jury to convict all six men and given them sentences of between six and 16 years. The maximum sentence for a hostage-taking is life imprisonment.
The men's lawyers appealed for clemency, saying that the men had already been condemned to exile in France, far from their families and culture, which in itself was 'a cruel sentence'.
One of the defendants claimed he himself was a victim of piracy, saying the other defendants commandeered his boat to use it in the attack.
The defence team also highlighted the context in which piracy had surged off Somalia in recent years. The war-wrecked country, which suffered a famine earlier this year, has been without a functioning government since 1991.
Many of the pirates who have attacked passing yachts in the past years are former fishermen.
The International Maritime Bureau says 397 incidents of piracy were reported between January and mid-November, of which 223 took place off the coast of Somalia.
In the absence of a functioning Somali justice system some foreign jurisdictions have begun stepping in to prosecute the pirates.
The Carre d'As case, as it is known after the name of the yacht, is the first such case to be tried in France.
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