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Seychellois judge does not taste pirate humor

The 13 Iranian fishermen from the Al Molai had been freed by the American crew of the USS Kidd and the 15 pirates arrested (US Navy photo/Released)

(BRUSSELS2) The Seychelles Supreme Court on Monday (November 5) convicted 15 Somalis of piracy and sentenced them each to 18 years in prison. A rather severe sentence but which can be explained by both factual and political circumstances.

Tanker attack fails

The pirates had attacked a tanker, the MV Sunshine, in the Arabian Sea. The tanker's crew only owed their freedom to the rapid measures taken by the ship's captain: retreat to the citadel, use of water cannons on the skiff... But above all they had a stroke of luck. A US naval group was nearby. The aircraft carrier USS Stenis and her escort (the USN supply ship Rainier and the missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay) alerted by the SOS call are getting closer, the Seahawkh helicopter takes to the air. The intervention of the military stopped the attack. Everything was filmed by helicopters (notably for evidence) making it possible to attest to the use of weapons by the attackers. Shortly after, an SH-60S Seahawk helicopter from theUSS Kidd located a pirate skiff next to an Iranian fishing boat, the Al Molai. The fishermen then reported to the Americans that they were being held hostage. The US intervened again, taking the kidnappers prisoner and freeing the fishermen.

It was for fun, Judge!

The pirates' defense tactics were original. The pirates maintained that they were peacefully fishing in the Arabian Sea. And that if they had fired a rocket launcher at a tanker, it was just to “fun“. As for their weapons, it was only “for their own protection“. The kind of joke which apparently did not please Judge Mohan Burh, according to the Seychellois press. “Shooting an RPG towards the deck of a ship under such circumstances can't really be considered a very fun activity.” recalled the magistrate, not without irony. As for the excuse of fishing with Iranian friends, it did not attract his attention. The 18-year sentence is undoubtedly not unrelated to this defense strategy...

A very political case… also

This is the first time that the Seychelles archipelago has judged a case so far from its natural zone and which does not directly concern Seychelles interests. It must also be said that this case was sensitive. The rescue of the Iranian ship was loudly staged by the Americans at a very sensitive time of tension between Iran and the United States. We will therefore not be surprised if Barbara Nuland, the spokesperson for the US State Department, officially welcomed this conviction. “ We appreciate Seychelles' regional leadership on combating piracy, as demonstrated by their willingness to prosecute and incarcerate Somali pirates, as well as hosting a regional intelligence coordination center to support future prosecutions of pirates. . The conviction marks a step forward in building a strong and united international response against Somali piracy and promoting freedom of navigation worldwide. »

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).