Madagascar Sentences Somali Pirates to 5 Years Hard Labor
Fourteen Somali pirates arrested and detained temporarily in Antsiranana prison since March 5, 2011, were tried by the Criminal Court of the Northern capital on Friday, November 16. One of them was a minor at the time, and it was therefore necessary to judge the individual, who then received bail.
Malagasy Justice has dealt with the case of pirates who reached the port of Antsiranana, Madagascar. Their sentences are severe, despite a withdrawal of witnesses.
Thirteen Somalis were sentenced to five years hard labour, while a juvenile was sentenced to 30 months in prison then placed on bail. All the pirates have been prosecuted under the Malagasy Penal Code and international maritime code.
Their charges refer to the act of piracy, false imprisonment, assault and battery, violence and assault, and attempted rape.
All this has been perpetrated against the passengers and crew of the boat Zoulficar. The court lasted more than four hours. The defendants without exception rejected the charges. They said they were fishermen in distress and they had to be on board the Zoulficar at sea.
Regarding the presence of firearms in their possession, their lawyer, Mr. Raymond Ramaso, explained they were obliged to hold them because of the insecurity and the state of war in Somalia, and to defend their catches. The defense also claimed that the court has no jurisdiction to judge its clients, according to the international maritime code,
The Comorian-flagged Zoulficar Attorney General, Yvon Ravoahangy Christiano, countered that the Criminal Court can prosecute pirates because they operated in Malagasy waters and landed in the port of Madagascar, namely that of Antsiranana.
“Madagascar Justice has the power and the right to try suspects that are charged with a crime within the national territory. The docking in the Madagascar port and the request for assistance from Master of the Zoulficar reinforce this position,” insisted the Attorney General, recalling that the vessel flying the flag of the Comoros was boarded by pirates on 30 October 2010, after leaving the port of Moroni. After several months of travels and wanderings at sea along the coast of Somalia, with the death of a mechanic, holding the passengers and crew of Zoulficar hostage, they had cause to resolve to reach the port of Antsiranana as the vessel lacked fuel, food, and water and were subsequently suffering from hunger and thirst. The Zoulficar was released in February 2011.
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