Six accused Somali pirates went on trial in a Paris court Tuesday for taking 30 crew members hostage in 2008 on the ship Le Ponant in the Gulf of Aden. The men could face life in prison [AFP report] if convicted of both kidnapping and theft as a result of seizing the luxury ship, which led to the ransom payment and eventually arrest of the six men in Somalia. French officials caught the men through a helicopter raid [BBC report] which stopped the suspected pirates' vehicle. A search of the vehicle led to the finding of USD $200,000 which was suspected to be part of the ransom paid by the ship owner. Only one of the six men admitted to being a pirate, with two others saying they were aboard the ship but only to sell various items to the crew. The remaining three suspects claimed not to have been aboard the ship for the incident. There are currently 22 Somali pirates in French authority for various hostage related incidents.
Somali pirates have attracted much attention lately from the international community. Last month Somali national Mohommad Saaili Shibin was convicted [JURIST report] in a US court of piracy [JURIST news archive] for his role in the hijacking of a German merchant vessel and a US yacht in 2010 and 2011. Shibin, who played the role of negotiator in the hijackings, was convicted on 15 charges, including kidnapping and hostage-taking, which require a sentence of life in prison. According to a statement by US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride, Shibin is the highest-ranking pirate ever to be convicted in the US. In March, the US government handed over 15 suspected Somali pirates [JURIST report] it captured in January to the Republic of Seychelles for prosecution. The suspects are accused of attacking a ship and kidnapping 13 Iranian fisherman, all of whom the US Navy rescued.