x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Somali pirates have life sentences upheld by Federal Supreme Court

Ten Somali pirates who hijacked the UAE ship MV Arrilah in March 2011 have had the appeal against their life sentences rejected by UAE's top court.

ABU DHABI // Ten Somali pirates who were sentenced to life imprisonment have had their appeals rejected by the Federal Supreme Court.

The Federal Court of First Instance had sentenced them to 25 years in jail each for hijacking the UAE ship MV Arrilah in April 2011.

The 37,000-tonne bulk oil carrier, owned by two subsidiaries of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, was taken as it sailed through the Arabian Sea, en route from Australia to Jebel Ali in Dubai.

Armed with sub-machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades, the pirates approached the vessel aboard two skiffs, scaled barbed-wire defences and opened fire on the crew.

The sailors retreated into the ship’s heavily armoured stronghold, known as the citadel, where they came under sustained attack from the hijackers who tried to smoke them out with burning wood, then lobbed grenades.

The hijackers then diverted the ship to Somalia to demand ransom money for the hostages from the UAE Government.

After a 30-hour ordeal in which some of the crew were hurt, UAE counter-terrorism forces in coordination with the US Fifth Fleet stormed the ship, freeing the hostages and capturing some of the pirates.

The Somalis appealed against the verdict, arguing that they were from poor families and needed the money.

They said they had taken what they believed were jobs at sea, but were unaware that they would be asked to take part in piracy.

Although they had confessed to the crime at first, they later withdrew their guilty pleas.

Their defence lawyers also said two of the defendants were juveniles.

But the court upheld the sentences for the defendants because their original confessions, the crew’s testimonies and expert technical reports proved their guilt.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae