Somali pirates who were found guilty of hijacking the French vessel Le Ponant in 2008 have been sentenced to a total of 24 years imprisonment by a Paris court.
Of the six Somali pirates, who were captured by French forces in a daring raid on land, with a 4x4 vehicle, arms and a part of the ransom, two were acquitted. One was sentenced to serve four years but this was negated by his detention on remand since April, 2008. All three had protested their innocence.
Two others were sentenced to seven years imprisonment and the remaining pirate, who admitted participating in the whole operation, was told he must serve ten years. It is, as yet, unclear whether the jail terms will be served in France or using the facilities of cooperating jurisdictions in the East African Region.
Commenting on the judgements, Alastair Evitt, Chairman of the shipping industry anti-piracy group SOS SaveOurSeafarers (www.saveourseafarers.com) says; “This is encouraging news. There are about 3,500 criminals active in these pirate gangs. All too often, when they are captured by security forces, confusion over admissible evidence or legal and international diplomatic complexities mean that they are set free to offend again. We applaud these convictions.
“The international community must demonstrate its resolve to stamp out his serious threat to seafarers and world trade. That means more and better evidence gathering, more effective policing and jurisprudence in the region, and building more prisons to cope with increasing number of arrests and convictions. Criminals, especially persistent, unscrupulous and violent ones, with a willingness to abuse and, in some cases, murder their victims, should be behind bars.”
Somali piracy costs billions of pounds a year and causes hostage seafarers untold suffering. 225 hostages are being held in appalling conditions right now.