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Somali pirate suspects go on trial in Netherlands court

[JURIST] Five Somalians suspected of piracy [JURIST news archive] went on trial Monday before a Dutch court in Rotterdam. The men are accused of attempting to hijack [NRC Handelsblad report] a Dutch Antilles freighter in the Gulf of Aden in January. The Danish navy seized the Somalians in February and handed them over to Dutch authorities. While at least one of the men has admitted an intention to hijack the ship, he and others maintain that they abandoned the notion of hijacking it after experiencing engine problems and that the crew of the freighter attacked them first, setting fire to their boat with a molotov cocktail. One of the accused admits his guilt and is seeking the court's sympathy for what his lawyer calls an act of despair. All of the accused claim to be poor fishermen who were acting out of poverty and debt due to the poor financial and political situation in Somalia. The prosecutor responded [DutchNews report] that, regardless of the country's poverty, not every Somalian is resorting to piracy.

In April, a US Coast Guard chief called for the enforcement of international piracy laws [JURIST report], citing the importance of entering Somali waters to combat the problem. In March, the European Union (EU) [official website] announced an agreement with Kenya [JURIST report] to transfer suspected pirates captured by EU counter-pirate operations into Kenyan custody for prosecution. In October, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia." Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia's coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world [BBC report] due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid [NPR report].

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