Somali pirates on trial in France over hijacking

Three Somali pirates went on trial this week for the 2009 hijacking of a French yacht which prompted a rescue operation by elite forces in which the skipper died.

Somali pirates on trial in France over hijacking
Two of the three Somali pirates arrested by French soldiers in 2009 Mahmoud Abdi Mohammed (L) and Abdelkader Osmane Ali wait in the accused box. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

Three Somali pirates went on trial Monday for the 2009 hijacking of a French yacht which prompted a rescue operation by elite forces in which the skipper died.

French troops stormed the Tanit sailboat on April 10, 2009 and captured the trio during a bid to free Florent Lemacon, his wife, their three-year-old son and two others.

French commandos killed two pirates but also accidentally shot dead Florent Lemacon during the operation.

On the first day of the trial in the northwestern city of Rennes, the young defendants described a life of poverty in Somalia that they say eventually led to them to piracy.

One said he lost his livelihood following the devastating 2004 tsunami, which affected his coastal community by destroying fishing boats and depleting fish stocks.

Another said he started struggling in 2005, when a severe famine killed a lot of his livestock.

Just as the three were struggling to make ends meet several years later in 2009, pirates helped them out, giving them clothes and even drugs, and then $100 to get a "job" done, they said.

Grabbing kalashnikovs, they went to sea with two others and tried – and failed – to hijack a cargo ship. So they resorted to storming the Tanit, a 42-feet sailboat.

Speaking in court, Mahamud Abdi Mohamed, who does not know if he is 26 or 27, said he grew up in a family of nomads. His father died "by accident" from a bullet wound when the defendant was 8.

When he turned 12, he started tending to the family's goats, but resorted to fishing when he lost almost all the animals in 2005.

"There was no other job than fishing, my only concern was to feed my family, I risked my life because I didn't know how to swim," he said, adding he did not know the job offered to him in 2009 involved piracy.

The two other defendants, aged 31 and 29, were both also struggling fishermen.

The lawyer for Lemacon's widow Chloe, Arnaud Colon de Franciosi, said earlier Monday that the family was "traumatised and shocked but at the same time wanted justice".

Chloe Lemacon was angry with the French state for ordering a "dangerous operation," he said.

The Lemacons left the northwestern French port of Vannes in 2008 for a journey to Zanzibar. They were taken hostage on April 6, 2009 off the Somali coast.

France has taken a tough line on pirates caught by its forces in the waters off East Africa, where pirates have seized dozens of mainly merchant vessels for ransom in recent years.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Ghosn trial may be delayed until next year: Japanese media

Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn's trial, which was expected to begin in September, will be delayed, local media said Saturday, hinting that it may not start this year.

Ghosn trial may be delayed until next year: Japanese media
Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn leaving a detention centre on Thursday. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP
The 65-year-old tycoon, currently on bail, is preparing for his trial on four charges of financial misconduct ranging from concealing part of his salary from shareholders to syphoning off Nissan funds for his personal use.
The Tokyo District Court had proposed to start his trial in September during its pre-trial meetings with his defence lawyers and prosecutors, news reports said, quoting unnamed sources.
But the court told the lawyers and prosecutors on Friday that it had retracted the plan without proposing a new time frame, Kyodo News said, adding that the move could mean the trial will not start this year.
The court also decided not to separate the trial for Ghosn, his close aide Greg Kelly and Nissan — all indicted on the charge of violating the financial instruments law by underreporting Ghosn's compensation, according to Kyodo.
His lawyers have so far demanded he be tried separately from Nissan and have voiced fears he will not receive a fair trial.
The Sankei Shimbun also said prosecutors gave up filing an appeal to the Supreme Court against his bail, a move to erasing a chance of his return to jail unless he is arrested again on fresh charges. Immediate confirmation of the news reports was not available.
On Thursday, Ghosn exited his Tokyo detention centre after accepting bail of $4.5 million under strict conditions, including restrictions on seeing his wife.
His case has captivated Japan and the business community with its multiple twists and turns, as well as shone a spotlight on the Japanese justice system which critics say is overly harsh.
Ghosn denies all the charges, with a spokesperson for the executive saying on Monday he would “vigorously defend himself against these baseless accusations and fully expects to be vindicated”.
In a statement hours after his release, Ghosn said: “No person should ever be indefinitely held in solitary confinement for the purpose of being forced into making a confession.”
The dramatic case has thrown international attention onto the Japanese justice system, derided by critics as “hostage justice” as it allows prolonged detention and relies heavily on suspects' confessions.