News24

Seychelles jails ten Somali pirates

2011-02-28 22:27

Victoria - A court in Seychelles sentenced ten convicted Somali pirates to 20 years in prison on Monday and the Indian Ocean archipelago said it hoped the jail sentence would serve as a deterrent, the government said.

Seychelles is one of several countries in east Africa and the Indian Ocean region conducting trials, or intending to try pirates because Somalia lacks the legal infrastructure.

"The sentences will send a strong message to other pirates on the high seas that we have the capacity to capture, prosecute and jail criminals at sea who threaten our key fisheries and tourism industries," the islands' Minister for Home Affairs, Environment and Transport Joel Morgan told Reuters by telephone.

The hijacking of ships off the coast of Somalia, where an Islamist insurgency and general lawlessness have helped pirates to flourish, has cost the shipping industry tens of millions of dollars in ransoms for vessels and their crews.

Earlier this month, Seychelles and Somalia signed an agreement paving the way for Somali prisoners to be repatriated.

Morgan said Somali sea-bandits were a burden on the tax payer, making up about 10% of Seychelles' 400-strong prison population.

"We will wait until the prison facilities and other arrangements in Somalia are ready as we do not want to repatriate them only for them to be released or allowed to serve shorter sentences," he said.

This group of ten pirates seized a 33-foot fishing vessel with seven Seychellois crew members in November. One pirate was killed in the rescue mission.