The fate of six suspected Somali pirates is currently in the hands of a French jury. The men were put on trial on charges of holding a French couple hostage aboard their yacht in 2008. Their yacht was intercepted off the Somalia coast while they were sailing from Australia back to France.
The couple was only freed after French Special Forces stormed the yacht in a rescue attempt, actually killing one of the suspected pirates onboard. Six others were arrested and transferred to France where they were held in custody for the last three years.
The state is asking for 6 to 16 years of imprisonment for all six men. Lawyers aiding the men are asking for clemency arguing that condemning the men to exile in France far from their families and lives is punishment in itself. One defendant is even claiming that he is a victim of piracy stating that his boat was commandeered for the attack.
The International Maritime Bureau says that almost 400 piracy incidents occurred between January and mid-November of this year; 223, which are more than half, took place off Somalia’s coast. With no functioning government or justice system in the country, foreign jurisdictions are stepping in to prosecute pirates.
The jury’s ruling has not yet been announced.
UPDATE: Five of the captured men were sentenced to between 4 and 8 years in jail by the Paris court. The sixth man was acquitted.
After their trial, the men asked for forgiveness and requested leniency in their sentencing. 22 more Somali pirates are awaiting trial in France, all charged with attacks on French ships. This trial was France's first of the kind.