Somaliland :Somali pirates jailed for 15 to 20 years

Somaliland :Somali pirates jailed for 15 to 20 years
April 26 2009
Mogadishu - Nine Somali pirates have been jailed for 15 to 20 years by a court in the breakaway northern state of Somaliland, an official said on Sunday.
"The nine pirates were found guilty of piracy and seven of them were given a jail term of 15 years, while two others were sentenced to 20 years," Mohamed Hashi, a Somaliland police officer told AFP by telephone from Berbera, Somaliland's main port.
"The pirates also admitted being guilty of chasing ships off Somaliland waters," added Hashi, who was in court for Saturday's hearing in Berbera.
The accused were arrested initially on April 18 by a Dutch navy warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden as part of NATO's anti-piracy mission.
Sixteen Yemeni fishermen they were holding were freed in the operation triggered by a distress call from a Greek merchant vessel, the Handytankers Magic.But the Dutch navy let the pirates go because they could not be prosecuted under Dutch law, the Portuguese commander of the NATO fleet explained.
However, the pirates were apprehended by the Somaliland authorities under circumstances which are not clear.
Somaliland's judicial authorities had already jailed seven pirates for 20 years in February after they were picked up by local coast guards near Berbera.
More than half the suspected pirates captured by international naval forces patrolling off Somalia have been handed over to authorities in the neighbouring self-proclaimed autonomous region of Puntland.
Kenya is the region's only state to have agreements with most major naval powers facilitating the arrest and transfer of suspected pirates.
Nevertheless, the United States -- in its first piracy trial for a century -- is also taking a teenager to court in New York after a US cargo-ship captain was held hostage for five days, forcing a dramatic mid-ocean rescue.
Ransom-hunting pirates off lawless Somalia -- without an effective central government since 1991 -- have defied an increased international naval presence to step up attacks during favourable weather, seizing at least 11 ships in April alone. - Sapa-AFP