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Kenya court acquits 17 on piracy charges

A magistrate in Mombasa, Kenya, found 17 accused Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] not guilty Friday, ruling that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The accused denied involvement [AFP report] in the 2009 attack on the ship the MV Amira. Their lawyer, Jared Magolo, said that the magistrate ruled that the prosecution had insufficient evidence [AP report] and that the magistrate believed that the US Navy [official website] had failed to turn over evidence that may have convicted his clients. According to Magolo, it is not clear what will happen to the men now, as repatriating them to Somalia, which is currently in a state of war, would violate international law.

Earlier this week, a Yemeni court sentenced 10 Somali Pirates [JURIST report] to five years in prison for attacking Yemeni fishing boats. The international community has been supporting actions taken against maritime piracy, but the UN has recently had to call for nations to assist Kenya in conducting piracy trials [JURIST report]. In June, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced [JURIST report] that it would spend more than USD $9.3 million to fund courts that prosecute suspected Somali pirates. This action came in response to the Kenyan government's announcement in April that it would no longer accept [JURIST report] Somali pirate cases due to its overburdened legal system. The month of April also saw the UN Security Council approve a resolution [JURIST report] calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws as well as an announcement from the UN that a trust fund established to combat piracy will be funding five projects [UN News Centre report] in an effort to help Somalia and its neighbors reduce acts of piracy committed in nearby bodies of water.

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