US-caught Somali pirate suspects plead innocence
By Guled Mohamed
MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) – Ten suspected Somali pirates
captured by the U.S. Navy last month pleaded their innocence on
Friday at the start of a trial intended to deter rampant piracy
off the lawless Horn of Africa nation.
During the unprecedented judicial hearing in the Kenyan
port of Mombasa, the ten men argued that they had been
illegally kidnapped by a U.S. ship patrolling in waters that
have seen an upsurge of attacks and hijackings in the last
“We are poor people who were abducted, up to now we don’t
know where we are,” said Hassan Mohamed, who was formally
charged with piracy along with the other nine. “We wish a
representative from our government to be availed for us.”
The ten face a possible life sentence if convicted, court
officials in Mombasa said.
“This is the first time in Kenya’s history that piracy is
being tried in our jurisdiction,” said deputy public prosecutor
Margaret Mwangi, urging the trial to be pursued swiftly so that
foreign witnesses would not be delayed in Kenya.
Run by warlords since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed
Siad Barre, Somalia’s waters have become among the most
dangerous in the world. Typically, armed pirates use speedboats
to attack and board ships, including oil tankers.
The wave of attacks has shaken merchant shipping which
relies heavily on international trade routes that snake down
Somalia’s coastline, the longest of any African country. Piracy
has also held up food aid shipments.
In the case of the 10 suspects taken to Mombasa, the U.S.
Navy pursued and caught their ship, with 16 Indian sailors
believed to be hostages on board, near Mogadishu.
The suspects and arms seized with them were handed over to
authorities in neighboring Kenya last Sunday.
Relatives of the arrested Somalis have warned Kenya against
cooperating with the United States and hinted at retaliation.
Last week, a Somali pirate demanded the release of his
“comrades,” threatening to kill hostages in the future if the
call was not heeded, media reports said.
Formal trial proceedings were set to start on Monday.