Spain's National Court on Tuesday sentenced [text, PDF, in Spanish] two Somali pirates to 439 years in prison each for their involvement in the 2009 hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat off the coast of Somalia. Pirates Cabdiweli Cabdullahi and Raageggesey Hassan Aji were apprehended by Spanish officials when they sailed away from the Alakran and were brought to Madrid for trial instead of the usual venue in Africa. Though the court found that the Spanish government paid USD $3.3 million in ransom to release the boat and the 36 crew members held for 47 days, Spain's Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiminez [official profile], adamantly denies the finding [AP report]. The hefty sentence stems from illegally detaining 36 crew members in addition to 11 years for each count of piracy. However, court officials have indicated that the maximum time each pirate will serve is likely not more than 30 years.
Last month, a US district court sentenced a Somali pirate to 25 years in prison [JURIST report] for his role in attacking a Danish ship, as well as the US Navy's USS Ashland. In November, a federal jury in Virginia convicted [JURIST report] five Somali men on charges of piracy for their roles in an April attack on the USS Nichols. In August, piracy charges against six defendants were dismissed [JURIST report] when federal Judge Raymond Jackson ruled that piracy, as defined by the law of nations, does not include violence or aggression committed on the high seas, and rejected the government's argument for an expanded reading of the statute. Piracy remains an issue of international concern, as few countries have been willing to prosecute suspected pirates. The few that have attempted to do so include Germany, Seychelles, the Netherlands, Mauritius, Yemen, Somalia and Spain [JURIST reports].