Suspected Somali pirates flown to the Netherlands ahead of extradition to Germany

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Suspected Somali pirates flown to the Netherlands

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch military transport plane on Wednesday picked up 10 suspected Somali pirates who were arrested at sea and was flying them to the Netherlands to await transfer to Germany for trial.

The 10 were captured April 5 by Dutch special forces marines who slid down ropes from a helicopter to recapture the seized German container ship MV Taipan.

Wearing beige overalls and with their hands shackled, they were led from the Dutch frigate HMS Tromp in Djibouti and put on a KDC-10 transport plane for the flight to a military air base in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven.

Germany has issued a European arrest warrant for the men and plans to prosecute them.

The rescue operation took place hours after pirates had hijacked the MV Taipan about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Somalia. The Dutch launched the rescue mission after ensuring the Taipan’s crewmen had locked themselves safely in a bulletproof room on the ship.

The Somalis surrendered without a fight after seeing the heavily armed Dutch marines board the ship as their helicopter raked the bridge with covering fire. One Dutch marine was slightly injured when he fell during the rescue.

This case is a rare instance of a European country choosing to put suspected pirates on trial. The Tromp alone has detained 83 men; in all previous cases they were disarmed and released, and put back in their boat with enough food, water and fuel to get them back to the Somali coast.

Other suspects arrested by a European Union anti-piracy naval task force have been turned over to Kenya or the Seychelles for prosecution. But Kenya has been reluctant to accept piracy suspects in recent weeks, arguing its criminal justice system is already overloaded.

Prosecution spokesman Wim de Bruin said an Amsterdam court should quickly handle the case. It was not immediately clear if the Somalis could appeal against their extradition — a process that could slow their transfer.

International naval forces have stepped up their enforcement of the waters off East Africa in an effort to thwart a growing pirate trade. But attacks have continued and the pirates have extended their range south and east.

Experts say piracy will continue to be a problem until an effective government is established on Somalia’s lawless shores. The country has not had a functioning government for 19 years.

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