Somalis who ‘fired rockets at a ship for fun’ jailed


07-November-2012

Mr Burhan rejected their defence that they were fishing and having fun as they fired rockets at a tanker in the Arabian Sea and that weapons – including assault rifles – which they dumped at sea when a surveillance helicopter appeared were only for their own protection.

The court had heard that on January 5 on the high seas the 15 men, with common intention committed an act of piracy after boarding another vessel called Al Molai unlawfully and taking control of it while armed with guns.

In his judgment Mr Burhan noted that Seychelles law has been amended to allow prosecution of pirates found within our borders and beyond.

Captain Stanislav Ususchev of the oil tanker MV Sunshine told the court he saw a skiff approaching his vessel at 24 knots and it caught up with the bigger vessel which was travelling at a speed of 13 knots.

He said he and crew of the tanker saw people on the skiff “directing a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher at the bridge of his vessel while other persons in the skiff were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and had a ladder.”

The tanker’s crew took protective measures by entering the citadel of the ship, fired water cannons at the skiff and radioed for help, following which helicopters on surveillance duties flew to the area, filmed what was happening and soldiers from another surveillance unit boarded the skiff, whose crew had thrown their weapons overboard and surrendered.

Judge Burhan said he was satisfied the evidence presented by the prosecution proved the acts of piracy and rejected the defence’s claims that the pirates were “out having fun and were following the tanker for navigation purposes while the weapons were for their self defence”.

“Firstly directing an RPG on the bridge of a ship under the circumstances mentioned by the witnesses cannot be considered to be a ‘fun’ activity,” said the judge, before passing sentence.

He said the defence’s contention that the 15 accused were out fishing with the Iranian crew (of the Al Molai) and fun riding following tankers and were carrying weapons for their own protection could not be accepted and was accordingly rejected.

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