Thursday, September 06, 2012
Prosecutors in Germany's first piracy trial in four centuries demanded lengthy prison sentences for 10 Somalis accused of hijacking a German-flagged ship off the Horn of Africa.
"The public prosecutor's office called for sentences of four to 12 years," court spokesman Conrad Mueller-Horn said, nearly two years into the case in the northern port city of Hamburg.
The group was arrested by the Dutch navy some three and a half hours after they allegedly took over the German container ship Taipan some 530 nautical miles (950 kilometres) off the Somali coast in April 2010.
The Taipan's 15-member crew managed to evade capture by the pirates by taking refuge in a so-called "panic room" hidden within the ship.
The defendants have been on trial since November 2010.
Under German law, the court can impose sentences of up to 15 years. It is not yet clear when a verdict can be expected.
The trial has been marred by complications, not least confusion over the Somalis' full names and exact ages, estimated to be between 19 and 50.
After a spike at the start of the last decade, successful pirate attacks on commercial vessels sailing off the Horn of Africa have declined.
Twenty-eight attacks were recorded in the first half of 2011, three in the second half and five since January, according to recent figures from the European Union Naval Force Somalia, Operation Atalanta.
Other European countries and the United States have prosecuted Somali defendants but Germany had not seen a pirate trial for more than 400 years.