A Somali court on Saturday sentenced three British nationals, an American and two Kenyans to at least 10 years in prison each for bringing millions of dollars intended for pirate ransom into the country.
Two of the defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine, said Somali Information Ministry spokesman Abdifitah Abdinur. The other defendants were sentenced to 10 years and a $10,000 fine.
The men were arrested in Mogadishu last month after their planes were found to be carrying millions of dollars in cash. A Somali official previously said the planes are used by companies that frequently deliver ransoms to pirates.
Officials did not give further details on the jailed Westerners.
Pirates have been receiving millions of dollars in ransoms for several years now, but Saturday was the first time Westerners were sentenced for their role in paying out the ransoms.
The average ransom paid to pirates has reached nearly $5 million. The ransoms are often air-dropped down to hijacked ships.
It seemed unlikely the six defendants would have to serve their full sentences. A Western official who was not authorized to speak publicly said discussions were under way to reduce or overturn the sentences.
Asked about possible pardons or parole, Abdinur said that "everything is possible and I can't comment on the future."
Elsewhere in Mogadishu, meanwhile, Somalia's most powerful militant group, al-Shabab, executed two men over allegations of spying for the government. A man with the rank of judge in the group said the men admitted the charges against them. They were killed by a firing squad. Al-Shabab summoned residents to watch the execution.
Al-Shabab wants to impose an ultraconservative version of Islam on Somalia. The group carries out such punishments as amputations and stonings.
Somalia hasn't had a functioning central government since 1991, which has allowed pirates to flourish in the north and militants to take control of wide swaths of territory in the south.