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Pirates ‘were forced to raid UAE vessel’

Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Haneen Dajani

A handout image from MV Arrillah.//Courtesy of UAE Armed Forces

ABU DHABI // Ten Somalis who hijacked the UAE ship MV Arrilah were forced to carry out the attack, their lawyer has claimed.

Ahmed Al Othali told the Federal Court yesterday the men could not be held responsible for the attack because their boss, an Iranian man named Abdulmajeed, had threatened them with death if they did not take part.

"We all know the situation of our brothers in Somalia and the poverty they suffer and after the world closed its doors on the defendants they went to seek jobs from a person called Abdullah," said Mr Al Othali.

He said the men were offered jobs at sea but 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 the men had targeted those aboard the ship. "The case documents mention there were light weapons and RPGs," he said.

"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?"

Mr Al Othali 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," he said.

Statements from the defendants and witnesses were identical, "even the spelling mistakes are repeated", Mr Al Othali said, adding 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 of the injuries allegedly suffered by those on board the MV Arrilah, while the ship's capsule, which is the equivalent of an aeroplane's black box recorder, had not been retrieved.

The 10 Somalis were caught when 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 act firmly against piracy.

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

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