Spain’s High Court sentenced two Somali pirates to 439 years in prison each for their part in the hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat in the Indian Ocean in 2009, according to a court statement released on Tuesday.
The court also found that the government had paid a ransom to gain the freedom of 36 crew — including 16 Spaniards — on the Alakrana fishing boat that was held by pirates for 46 days. The government repeated its denial that it had paid a ransom.
Cabdiweli Cabdullahi and Raageggesey Hassan Aji were found guilty on charges ranging from kidnapping to violent robbery after a court appearance on Monday. But they were cleared of charges of terrorism, belonging to an armed gang, and torture.
The two men were part of a group that took control of the Alakrana and were captured in an operation led by the Spanish navy which the rest of the pirates managed to escape. The crew was freed in November 2009, and the pirates said they received $3.5 million as a ransom fee.
The Spanish court said there was no doubt the fee was paid.
“The government has already said it did not pay a ransom and I reiterate that,” Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told reporters on Tuesday.
The defendants had tried to have the case thrown out arguing Spain had no jurisdiction in the case, but the High Court said in December it had jurisdiction under international law and because it was a Spanish ship.
Pirate activity has been increasing and the first three months of 2011 were the worst on record with 77 attacks and hijackings, according to the European Union.
Wararka Soomaaliya (Warsom.com)
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