Nigerian Pirate Guilty of Causing Danger to Danish Soldiers

Pirate guilty of endangering Danish soldiers
Danish frigate engaged suspected pirates in November 2021 (Anders Fridberg / Danish Armed Forces)

Published Nov 28, 2022 5:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Copenhagen City Court has found a Nigerian man guilty of causing danger a year ago to Danish soldiers deployed in the Gulf of Guinea. However, in the latest twist in the case which drew international attention after Denmark released three suspected pirates, the court has also refused to sentence the individual. Pending appeals, he made be released after spending a year in detention.

The incident began a year ago shortly after the Danish frigate Esbern Snares arrived in the Gulf of Guinea on a mission to enhance maritime security. The frigate dispatched a helicopter on November 24, 2021, after receiving reports of increased danger and possible pirate sightings in the gulf. When the helicopter reached the site it identified a small boat believed to be carrying eight or nine men and equipment which the Danes believed were the tools for piracy. A frogmen crew later confronted the small boat and ended up in a firefight with the Danish soldiers insisting that they only fired in self-defense.

Four men aboard the small boat were killed, another wounded, and three others taken into custody. It was later determined that another person likely went overboard during the firefight and was lost. The wounded man was first medically treated on the Esbern Snares but it was determined that his leg was infected and needed to be amputated. He was sent to Ghana for medical treatment and later transferred to Denmark.

Danish prosecutors sought to find a place to send the three others in Africa. Unable to find another country willing to deal with the suspects they were later released.

The man taken to Denmark argued in court that he had only wanted to go to sea and was not armed and did not take part in the shooting. The court however found by association with the other suspects and being aboard the boat when shots were fired at the Danish soldiers the man had indeed endangered the safety of the Danes. He was found guilty by the court on those charges.

The court however has decided not to sentence the man. The defense had argued unequal justice because the other individuals in the boat were released. The court agreed but decided to hold the man for an additional two weeks while both sides review and decide if they are going to file an appeal.

While the trial was taking place last week in Denmark, the media reported that Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the whole case into question. He reportedly said he doubted the Danish account and said they had attached civilians in a boat. Reports indicate that he was demanding an apology from Denmark and said the Danish soldiers should be put on trial in Nigeria. The media report said he is also demanding the one suspect he released into the custody of the ministry.

The Esbern Snares, which had also been used previously to increase maritime security off East Africa, was ultimately recalled after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While the Danes left the Gulf of Guinea, other navies remain in the area to provide enhanced maritime security.  The presence of the international navies as well as new efforts in Nigeria are believed to have contributed to the overall decline in piracy which reached a low in recent months.