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In second of four cases, 16 Somali pirates get 7 years for bid to murder

Tuesday August 8, 2017

A special court on Monday convicted and sentenced 16 Somali pirates to seven years imprisonment on charges of attempt to murder and kidnapping. Special judge Jayendra C Jagdale said they will be given a set-off for time spent in jail since their arrest in 2011.

"The state is directed to deport the accused to their native state, Somalia, after release from prison," the court said. They were also convicted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for threatening the country's security and sovereignty.

This is the second of four cases in which the judgement has been pronounced.

The court found 15 accused guilty last Wednesday, on similar charges in a case in which the Indian Navy and Coast Guard intercepted a vessel used by Somali pirates 200 miles off Kochi in the Arabian Sea on January 29, 2011. Verdicts against 87 accused in two other cases are likely by Friday and next week. The accused, who had pleaded guilty, were happy to be going home soon.

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In this case, on March 26, the piracy attack on MV Maersk Kensington was thwarted west of Lakshadweep; 16 Somali pirates were arrested and 16 hostages rescued.

Special public prosecutor Ranjeet Sangle examined five witnesses, including the commanding officer on board INS Suvarna, assigned for anti-piracy patrolling in the area.

The officer told court about the operations and how 32 persons were rescued after they jumped into the sea when the mother ship caught fire in the rescue operations. Among them were hostages, including 12 Iranians and four Pakistanis.

The rest were the accused. Referring to the statements of the officer and deputy tehsildar, before whom the Pakistanis had identified the accused, the court said,

"All these factors cumulatively indicate the accused abducted and kidnapped 12 Iranians and four Pakistanis." But the court said the charges of murder and kidnapping under IPC section 364 A (kidnapping for ransom) could not be proved.

The case witnesses a major hurdle with efforts to get hostages to depose as witnesses. Sangle specified how letters were written to embassies through the state government through diplomatic channels. "Truly, the prosecution has made genuine efforts to bring witnesses before this court. But due to the apathy and indifferent attitude of the governments of foreign countries, the witnesses could not be produced," the court said.

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