[JURIST] The District Court of Rotterdam [official website, in Dutch] sentenced [press release, DOC] five Somali men on Friday to prison terms ranging from four to seven years for acts of maritime piracy [JURIST news archive]. All five of the sentenced pirates were discovered in a navy supply ship off the coast of Somalia earlier this year, and while all five were convicted of piracy, two were also convicted of hijacking. Judge Jacco Janssen rejected the suspects' arguments that the poverty and famine in Somalia is a justification for piracy. The ruling also denounced piracy as an attack on the global economy:
In its judgement the court has noted that pirates often use extreme violence, leading to tremendous suffering among the crew members whom they take hostage in order to collect ransom moneys. The court has emphasized that piracy in the Gulf of Aden has turned into a significant threat for all ships that frequent that region. The free and unfettered transport of cargo, resources and fuels can no longer be guaranteed. Global economic consequences can no longer be ruled out.Two of the accused were proven to be involved in an attack on a South African yacht, the Choizil. In the attack, several pirates got away with two hostages, Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, who are still being held for USD $10 million ransom. Reportedly, the two pirates involved in the attack on the Choizil, utilized automatic weapons and a rocket launcher [AFP report].
Last month, three accused Somali pirates pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to hijacking a US vessel that resulted in the deaths of four US citizens. In March, a grand jury in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia indicted 14 suspects, 13 Somali and one Yemeni, for hijacking the Quest. The Yemeni suspect pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in July and awaits sentencing scheduled for October. Several other suspects pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in May. Earlier this month, five Somali pirates went on trial [JURIST report] in a Dutch court for hijacking a South African yacht and kidnapping its crew. In April, a Somali pirate was sentenced [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] to 25 years in prison for attacking a Danish ship off the coast of Somalia in 2008, for which he and other pirates received a $1.7 million ransom. In May, courts in both Spain and South Korea [JURIST reports] sentenced Somali pirates to life imprisonment.