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January 18, 2009

Netherlands to try pirate suspects

The Netherlands has asked Denmark for the extradition of five Somali pirate suspects.

The five have been held on the Danish frigate Absolon since January 2. They jumped from a boat that had caught fire after members of the crew of the Netherlands Antilles flagged merchant ship Samanyolu had foiled a hijacking attempt by firing light flares at the attacking vessel.

Any prosecution would be the first ever under article 381 of the Netherlands criminal code, which outlaws piracy. It provides for the captain of a pirate ship to br sentenced to up to 12 years imprisonment, while crew members can receive up to nine years.

Wim de Bruin, a spokesperson for the Dutch Public Prosecutor's office, says, "This is about piracy and that is illegal in our criminal justice system. Because the merchant ship was sailing under a Netherlands Antilles flag, that means that the Netherlands can start preparing a case for trial."

According to the Equasis data base the 1980-built, 2,050 grt Samanyolu is managed by Berem Denizcilik of Istambul, Turkey.

"Denmark has started preparing for an extradition proceeding. I assume that the suspects within a very short time be transferred to the Netherlands," a press report quotes Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin as saying, Thursday, after consultations with his Danish counterpart during EU informal discussions in Prague.

There have been questions as to whether, if convicted, the pirates could be returned to Somalia after serving their sentences.

"It cannot be that Somali pirates are inviolable. The trial, I think, is more important than the issue of expulsion," said Hirsch Ballin, according to the press report. "The Danes have done a good job by holding the suspects. Now we must take responsibility."


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