German court convicts 10 Somalis of piracy

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 19, 2012 12:49 PM
German court convicts 10 Somalis of piracy

By Jan Schwartz

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Ten Somalis were given jail sentences of up to seven years on Friday for hijacking a cargo ship, in Germany's first modern-day piracy trial.

The raid on the German vessel MV Taipan, 530 miles off the Horn of Africa in April 2010, had been conducted with near military precision, the judge said, rejecting the defendants' claim that they had been forced into it.

The pirates had hoped to extort a ransom of at least $1 million, Judge Bernd Steinmetz told the Hamburg state court.

"You were each going to get a share of that, even if it was only going to be a small share," Steinmetz said as he convicted the men of piracy and kidnapping.

Defense attorneys had sought acquittals, calling the hijacking an act of desperation by people living in political and economic turmoil in one of the world's most unstable countries.

One of the defendants told the court: "It's a tragedy what happened here. Our country, my country is broken. I'm not a pirate."

Somali pirates netted $160 million last year and cost the world economy some $7 billion, according to the American One Earth Future think-tank.

Steinmetz said he had taken into consideration the desperate living conditions in Somalia when passing sentence.

The jail terms - seven years each for seven of them and three years for the others who were deemed minors at the time of the incident - were below prosecutors' demands of up to 12 years and well below the maximum penalty of 15 years.

The Somalis were captured by Dutch commandos after they freed the MV Taipan on April 5, 2010. They were taken to the Netherlands and later extradited to Germany.

(Writing By Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)