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March 8, 2009

Kenya to try more pirate suspects

Nine pirates captured last week by the German Navy off the cost of Somalia will be prosecuted in Kenya, reports Deutsche Welle.

Prosecutors in Hamburg said on Saturday, March 7, that although arrest warrants had been issued, they would not continue with criminal proceedings against the nine.

The nine accused will be transported to Kenya, where, according to German authorities, they will receive a fair trial.

The decision followed an agreement signed on Friday by Kenya and the European Union, which allows for the transfer to Kenya of piracy suspects detained as part of the EU's Atalanta anti-piracy mission.

The U.S. and the U.K. already have a similar agreement with Kenya, which on March 5 assumed custody of seven alleged Somali pirates, captured earlier by the U.S. Navy, with plans to prosecute the suspects swiftly in the Mombasa court system.

The U.S. had earlier transferred nine other individuals it had been holding to the authorities in Puntland, Somalia, on the grounds that the evidence against them was insufficient to meet the requirements for Kenya to bring a prosecution.

Vice Admiral William Gortney told a March 5 congressional hearing that the bilateral agreement had taken effect that same day, when Kenya accepted the alleged pirates.

The Navy captured the men February 11, when a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel called for help as pirates equipped with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades attempted to board.

State Department official Stephen Mull told the House Armed Services Committee that the United States is grateful to Kenya for its role in bringing suspected pirates to justice. He also said U.S. officials hope to conclude bilateral agreements with other countries in the region to ensure that no single country bears the burden of prosecution. He named Tanzania as a possible candidate.

According to the U.S. State Department, piracy is an international crime that is prosecuted through a number of agreements, including the 2000 United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Be that as it may, the Hamburg prosecutors seem to be relieved that Kenya is taking the nine in German Navy custody off their hands.

There have been questions as to whether the German interest in the case was sufficient to sustain a case against the men under German law. The vessel they were attacking, MV Courier, was German-owned, but was flying the flag of Antigua and Barbuda and had a non-German crew.


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