MOMBASA, Kenya, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) — A Kenyan court on Wednesday sentenced seven Somali pirates to 20 years each in prison for hijacking Sri-Lanka fishing trawler almost three years ago.The suspects – Barre Ali Farah, Abdi Mohammed, Ali Hussein Hassan, Abdulkarim Nur Shire, Bashir Mohammed Ehmi, Abdulrazak Abdullahi Ali and Abdulfaruk Hussein Ali – sat pensively in a Mombasa court as the interpreter read them their sentence. Mombasa’s Senior Resident Magistrate Joyce Gandani who made the ruling noted that piracy was on the rise and that the punishment would serve as a deterrent to others intending to commit similar offenses. “I have considered the mitigation by your lawyer on Monday. However the court takes note that piracy has been on the increase in the international seas,” said Gandani. “The act of piracy has adversely affected the security and the trade of not only our country but the entire region,” the magistrate ruled. The magistrate in her ruling also considered the four years the pirates had been remanded at Shimo la Tewa prison in Mombasa. The pirates were arrested in October 2009 off the Gulf of Aden by Danish Naval Forces after they attempted to hijack a Sri-Lankan fishing trawler and handed over to the Kenyan authorities for prosecution. Defense attorney Jared Magolo had pleaded for leniency, asking the courts to release the suspects as they had already been rehabilitated while pending their judgment. “The purpose of any sentence is to reform those who have been convicted. This is one rare case where the trial has achieved what the sentence would have achieved. They have been reformed,” said Magolo. “Infact the legislature had such in mind. That is why the courts have the discretion to release or impose suspended sentences.” Magolo had in his plea asked the courts to consider similar cases where the court had sentenced pirates lesser punishment. “In criminal case file 1695 of 2009 the sentence given was 5 years. In case file 1694 of 2009 the accused were imprisoned for four years. In all the cases mentioned the matters were more serious,” said Magolo. “Your honor this is child’s play compared to others where the alleged pirates exchanged fire using automatic rifles and injured the crew. These boys have already served four years.” However Magistrate Gandani in her ruling sentenced the seven to 20 years each with the option to appeal within 14 days. In 2006, the first group of pirates was sentenced to seven years in a Mombasa court. Despite international efforts to curb piracy off the coast of Somalia, the piracy has spread further into the Indian Ocean, widening the area under the pirates. The Horn of Africa nation’s coastline is considered one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of water because of piracy. Demanding millions of dollars in ransom for captured ships and their crews, Somali pirates are intensifying operations not just off their own coastline, but further afield in the Red Sea – particularly during the monsoon season in the wider Indian Ocean. But although Somali pirates are initiating more attacks analysts say they are managing to hijack fewer vessels. Tankers carrying Middle East oil through the Suez Canal must pass first through the Gulf of Aden. According to maritime officials, about 4 percent of the world’s daily oil supply is shipped through the gulf. The attacks are being carried out by increasingly well- coordinated Somali gangs armed with automatic weapons and rocket- propelled grenades, maritime officials said. The Horn of Africa nation has been without a functioning government since 1991, and remains one of the world’s most violent and lawless countries.
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