By: Salifa Karapetyan Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame
(Seychelles News Agency) – Five Somali nationals suspected of piracy will be held an additional 14 days and reappear before the Seychelles Supreme Court on December 10 for a decision on whether the case should be dismissed.
Justice Gustave Dodin was supposed to give a ruling on Friday but according to the lawyer representing the Somalis, Joel Camille, “the judge has asked for some more time so that he can conclude the ruling.”
“When the prosecution had called all its witnesses, we submitted a ‘no case to answer’, which means that we told the court that the prosecution does not have enough evidence against the Somali nationals so the charges should be dismissed and they should be released,” said Camille.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta transferred the five suspects to Seychellois authorities after responding to piracy attacks on April 21 last year.
The suspects were transported by Spanish flagship ESPS Navarra and transferred to Seychellois authorities in accordance with a transfer agreement between the Seychelles and the European Union with support from UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The incident began on April 19, 2019 when five suspected pirates captured a Yemeni dhow off the coast of Somalia. Two days later the pirates attacked the Korean fishing vessel Adria with the dhow acting as a mothership in the Indian Ocean some 280 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.
The case which started on September 9 was to be heard for a month but due to restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, witnesses form Spain were unable to physically appear in court to give their evidence; the process was carried out via videolink. Seychellois witnesses from the police force physically appeared before the court to give their evidence.
To ensure that the legal process is fair, a representative of the UNODC has been present during the case hearings. Her duty was also to look after the welfare of the accused.
Camille said that the ruling might have been pushed to a later date due to an increase in workload as the year is coming to an end.
“Judge Dodin gave us a guarantee that on December 10 he will give his ruling. I feel that the court will rule in my favour as I am still convinced that the evidence presented were not enough against the Somali national and the court will dismiss the case against them,” said Camille.
Seychelles is east of the Somali coast and has placed itself at the forefront of the fight against piracy since 2005 when the scourge began expanding, adversely impacting the nation’s tourism and fishing industries, the top pillars of its economy. The island nation in the western Indian Ocean has since then been working with international partners to apprehend and prosecute suspected Somali pirates.
Somaliland and Seychelles signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the transfer of sentenced pirates in 2011. With special jurisdiction to handle piracy and maritime crime cases, Seychelles started hearing cases in June 2015.