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Italy court orders trial for accused Somali pirates

The Tribunale Ordinario di Roma [official website, in Italian] on Monday ordered nine alleged Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] to be tried in Italy's first international piracy trial on charges of attacking the Montecristo, an Italian cargo vessel, off the coast of Somalia last year. Currently being held in Italy, five of the suspected pirates will be judged in the criminal division of Rome's Third Circuit Court, the Settore Penale della Terza Corte d'Assise [official website, in Italian] on March 23, while the remaining four will be tried in the Juvenile Court, the Tribunale dei Minori [official website, in Italian], on the same day. The Somalis face charges [Reuters report, in Italian] including kidnapping, piracy and possession of weapons for terrorism, and could receive up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Although two Pakistanis were also with the alleged pirates during the attack, they were released [La Repubblica report, in Italian] based on their testimony to authorities.

The Montecristo was seized on October 10 about 620 miles off the east coast of Somalia while en route to Yemen. Though the nine Somalis took 23 prisoners in the Gulf of Aden, all 23 were rescued [BBC report] approximately 24 hours later by US and British troops in a NATO Ocean Shield [official website] operation. Similarly, six accused Somali pirates went on trial in Paris [JURIST report] last November. There, the men were accused [CNN report] of capturing the Carre-d'As IV in the Gulf of Aden in 2008 and holding a French couple hostage for two weeks. This was also France's first piracy trial, with three additional trials excepted to follow. With increasing threats of international maritime piracy [JURIST news archive], UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun [official profile] urged the international community last October to increase efforts to combat Somali piracy [JURIST report] after the UN Security Council adopted [JURIST report] a resolution [text] aimed at making piracy a crime and establishing anti-piracy courts [webcast]. Italy is among a limited number of countries that have recently tried to prosecute piracy, including France, Germany, Seychelles, the Netherlands, Mauritius, Yemen, Somalia, Spain and the US [JURIST reports].

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