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Germany begins first piracy trial in 400 years

media Somali men found innocent of piracy, awaiting transfer in Mombasa, Kenya Reuters/Joseph Okanga

Germany’s first pirate trials in some four centuries began Monday with the prosecution of 10 Somali men, who allegedly tried to commandeer a German container ship in April.

The shift in venue from courts in the Horn of Africa, most often Kenya, is the result of a new policy of trying suspected pirates in the country where the affected ship is registered.

Piracy no longer carries a penalty of decapitation in Germany, but the alleged gang, ranging from 17 to 48 years old, could receive as many as 15 years in prison each.

The group is charged with attacking the MS Taipan off the Somali coast, which has become infested by buccaneers over the past two years.

Nearly two dozen vessels and some 500 people are currently held by Somali pirates, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau.

There have been renewed international efforts to increase patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, but prosecution of the apprehended marauders has been lacking.

With few fears of reprisal, lucrative booty has become an irresistible lure for many would-be raiders.

Several of the accused contend they are simply fishermen. Others will have to be tried in juvenile court due to their age, which has been difficult to ascertain due to a lack of proper documentation.

Through a joint statement issued by their lawyers, the defendants opined that piracy in the region can be attributed to political instability in Somalia and the over-fishing of its waters by Western nations.

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