Twelve Somali nationals have been acquitted of piracy charges in the Republic of Mauritius in the small island nation’s first maritime piracy trial since agreeing with the EU to accept suspected pirates for prosecution.
The twelve men, ages 20 to 45 according to the AFP, were accused of attacking the Panamanian-flagged containership ‘MSC Jasmine’ on January 5, 2013 in the Indian Ocean several hundred miles off the coast of Somalia.
According to a International Maritime Bureau Live Piracy & Armed Robbery Report issued following the incident, a group of six pirates in a skiff chased and fired upon the containership using automatic weapons and an RPG while underway approximately 400nm off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia. The attack was repelled after the shipboard armed security team fired warning shots towards the attackers while the crew hid in the ship’s citadel.
The attackers were later captured by European naval forces after returning to their pirate mothership and eventually transferred to Mauritius for prosecution.
The judge presiding over the trial found the men not guilty of piracy, citing that the prosecution did not provide enough evidence to prove otherwise.
Located in the southern Indian Ocean, the Republic of Mauritius in 2011 signed an agreement with the European Union allowing for the transfer of suspected pirates detained by EU Naval Forces (EU NAVFOR) in the Indian Ocean for the purpose of investigation and prosecution. The twelve men in this case were the first suspected pirates to be transferred following the implementation of the Transfer Agreement in June 2012.