The small island nation of Seychelles has acquitted three previously convicted Somali pirates and has ordered their repatriation, marking the latest judiciary win for Somali pirates.
The Seychelles Court of Appeal made the ruling December 12 that there was “insufficient evidence that proves that they were indeed pirates,” the Seychelles New Agency reports.
The 3 men were previously convicted and received sentences of 21 years in prison for two of the men and 14 years for the third.
The men were part of a group of 25 suspected pirates captured in January 2012 by a Danish navy ship aboard an Iranian dhow that was believed to be operating as a pirate mothership close to the Somali coast. Four those captured, including the three who were just acquitted, were sent to Seychelles for prosecution. The fourth was previously repatriated to Somalia and is serving the remainder of his 21 year sentence there, according to the Seychelles News Agency report. It was reported previously that fourteen Iranian and Pakistani hostages, believed to be the dhow’s crew, were also freed in the initial raid.
The acquittal marks the latest complication countries have run in to in trying to prosecute suspected pirates. On two separate occasions earlier this month, courts in Europe were forced to pay damages to suspected and even convicted Somali pirates over human rights violations stemming from delays in being presented before a judge. Last month, the Republic of Mauritius acquitted twelve Somali men of piracy charges due of lack of evidence in the country’s first maritime piracy trial since agreeing with the EU to accept suspected pirates for prosecution.
Over the past several years, Seychelles has been at the forefront of combating maritime piracy on the Indian Ocean by being one of the few countries – along with Kenya, Mauritius, and Tanzania – that has agreed to accept and prosecute suspected pirates captured by international navies. According to the Seychelles News Agency, Seychelles prosecuted the largest number of Somali pirates between 2009 to 2013, with many of them being repatriated by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime through its Piracy Prisoner Transfer Programme.