Mumbai, Aug 7 : A court here today sentenced 16 Somali pirates to seven years in jail for hijacking a fishing vessel which had sailed from Iran in 2011 and taking its Iranian and Pakistani crew hostage.
“Sessions judge J C Jagdale sentenced the accused to seven years in jail for conspiracy, attempt to murder, kidnapping and offences under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act,” said special public prosecutor Ranjeet Sangle.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 14,000 on each of them, while directing the government to deport them to Somalia after they serve their prison terms.
The judge, however, acquitted them of the charges of ‘kidnapping for ransom’ (for which the maximum punishment is death), murder and offences under the Arms Act.
Indian naval ship Suvarna, on anti-piracy patrol off the coast of Lakshadweep, was informed on March 26, 2011 that Maersk Kensington, a merchant vessel, was attacked by pirates operating from MV Morteza, a hijacked vessel, and two skiffs.
INS Suvarna rushed to the spot and directed the pirate vessel to stop engines. However, the pirates opened fire.
The retaliatory fire by the Navy led to a blaze on MV Morteza. The Navy rescued its crew members — 12 Iranians and four Pakistanis — and took 16 Somali pirates into custody.
MV Morteza had set sail from Chah Bahar in Iran with 18 crew members. It was hijacked near Seychelles and taken to Somalia by the pirates, who rigged it up as a ‘mother vessel’ for launching piracy attacks.
The crew were kept captive on board, and witnessed several piracy attempts, the prosecution said.
One of the crew members committed suicide due to torture by the pirates, while another was shot dead by the pirates when INS Suvarna was approaching it.
The Navy and the Indian Coast Guard had nabbed a total of 120 pirates between January and March 2011. All of them were handed over to the Yellow Gate police in Mumbai, and tried in a court here.
One of them died during the trial. All others pleaded guilty.
On August 2, the court had sentenced 15 pirates to seven years’ imprisonment. Judgements in remaining two cases are awaited.