Great victory for Seychelles tourism: Pirates sentenced to prison

In a ruling delivered by Judge Gustave Dodin in Seychelles, 5 suspected Somali pirates were convicted of 2 out of 3 counts of piracy brought against them by the prosecution.

This last group of pirates that remained on trial in Seychelles has been found guilty of piracy offenses and sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Seychelles Supreme Court on Friday.

The Somalis stood accused of attacking a dhow and holding the Indian crew as hostages, as well as for using the dhow as a pirate ship to attack an oil tanker.

The offenses were said to have been committed in the Gulf of Aden between January 1 and January 18, 2014.

The 5 suspected pirates were transferred to Seychelles on January 30, 2014 by French naval ship FS Siroco, which was part of the EU Naval Force, in collaboration with a Japanese air force plane.

Their transfer to the Indian Ocean island nation for prosecution was thanks to a pirate transfer agreement signed between the EU and the Seychelles in December 2009.

In an interview on national television Friday evening, the principal state counsel, David Esparon, said the 12-year sentence imposed by the court was “a great victory for Seychelles and the international community.”

He noted that the case had its element of difficulty, as it was not possible to bring the Indian crew saved during the operation led by the French naval ship to testify during the trial.

In March, Judge Dodin had ordered that the last piracy case standing before the Seychelles Supreme Court should be heard until the end, rejecting a motion filed by the lawyer of the 5 accused that there was “no case to answer.” The lawyer was arguing that there’s no evidence that they were guilty of the piracy charges against them.

Seychelles, a 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, ended up placing itself at the forefront of the fight against piracy as the scourge, which began to plague the Indian Ocean in 2005 and had a direct impact on the country’s tourism and fisheries sectors.

Over the last 6 years, the island nation has conducted nearly 20 piracy trials and convicted over 100 suspected pirates, more than any other country in the region.

The number of Somalis incarcerated at the Seychelles main detention facility, the Montagne Posée prison, stood at 22 in March of this year.

This includes the last group of 5 sentenced on Friday. The 17 others had already been convicted and were awaiting transfer to continue serving their sentences in their homeland.

According to the TV report, Judge Dodin has not made an order for the 5 Somalis sentenced on Friday to be transferred to their homeland to serve their 12-year sentence.

Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP) .