US hands pirates to Kenya

2010-10-12 22:38

Mombasa - A group of nine suspected Somali pirates arrested by the US Navy four days ago was handed over to Kenyan police on Tuesday, despite misgivings in the east African country about hosting piracy trials.

Many of the suspected pirates detained in the busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia by US and European Union warships have been taken to Kenya to face trial and the east African country has called for more nations to share the burden.

A deal between Kenya and the European Union to try suspected Somali pirates expired at the end of last month. The authorities in Kenya have yet to renew the agreement, although discussions between both parties are continuing.

Kenya has so far convicted 26 suspects captured at sea off Somalia while 84 are still in jail facing trials.

Besides Kenya, the Indian Ocean archipelago Seychelles has taken in suspected gunmen and Tanzania has said it plans to put them on trial too. There are hopes Mauritius will also sign a similar agreement.

In Kenya's port city of Mombasa, Provincial Police chief Leo Nyongesa said taking in captured men for trials remained something to be decided between Kenya and any country handing over suspects.

"All I can tell you is that we have taken the suspects in and shall detain them at the port police station as they await to be arraigned in court to face piracy charges," he told reporters.

Young Somali men

He said the suspects, all young Somali men, had been captured attempting to hijack a German merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden and that they had been found with guns and ammunition, despite ditching other weapons in the sea.

On Monday, the UN Secretary-General's special adviser on legal issues related to piracy off Somalia, Jack Lang, toured Kenya's Shimo La Tewa prison and expressed hope the country would rescind its decision to back out of the EU piracy deal.

Lang, a professor of public law and a former French minister, was appointed in August and tasked with examining how a mechanism could be established for prosecuting pirates, which state would host it and where convicts could be imprisoned.

He is now on a fact-finding mission to the region and is planning to present proposals to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he returns to New York.

At a news conference in Kenya's capital Nairobi on Tuesday, Lang declined to say what his proposals would be, though he said it was important for other countries to follow Kenya's lead.

He also said Kenya had clearly indicated that whatever discussions were going on, the country would continue to accept suspects as long as there was sufficient evidence to try them.

Lang said he was hopeful the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius would soon sign an agreement to try piracy suspects.

"There is one legal obstacle to be overcome, but I have the impression it can be overcome easily," Lang said.