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Somalis were 'forced to hijack ship'
The National
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
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Ten Somalis who hijacked the UAE ship MV Arrilah were forced to carry out the attack, their lawyer claimed today.

Ahmed Al Othali told the Federal Court the men could not be held responsible for the attack because their boss - an Iranian man called Abdulmajeed - had threatened them with death if they did not do so.
"We all know the situation of our brothers in Somalia and the poverty they suffer," said Mr Al Othali, "and after the world closed its doors on the defendants they went to seek jobs from a person called Abdullah."

He said the men were offered jobs at sea, but when they started working were surprised to find they would be working for the Iranian and "were unaware of the tasks they were assigned to do".

When their vessel crossed paths with the MV Arrilah, the men were ordered to jump aboard and "when they refused they were threatened with death".

Mr Al Othali also denied that the men had targeted those aboard the ship.

"The case documents mention there were light weapons and RPGs (anti-tank weapons)... If their target was to get to the hostages hiding in the engine room, wouldn't the RPG be capable of bursting the door open?"

He said that as those aboard the MV Arrilah had been hiding in the engine room they could not identify their captors, and could not have seen what was happening on the rest of the ship.

"I saw a video of the ship on YouTube - it is huge in size," he said.

Statements of the defendants and witnesses were all identical, "even the spelling mistakes are repeated", he added, saying that this raised suspicions over public prosecution's investigation.

"The translator signed the confessions of the defendants that were carried in Arabic - since when does a translator sign on behalf of the defendant?"

Mr Al Othali complained that there was no medical report regarding the injuries allegedly suffered by those on board the MV Arrilah, while the contents of the ship's capsule - the equivalent of a plane's black box - had not been retrieved.

The 10 Somalis were caught when special counter-terrorism units stormed the bulk oil carrier in April last year after it was hijacked in the Arabian Sea, east of Oman, en route from Australia to Jebel Ali.

The 37,000-tonne ship is owned by two subsidiaries of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the rescue was said at the time to show the UAE's commitment to acting firmly in the face of piracy.

The court is expected to issue a verdict on May 22.

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