By WILLIS OKETCH
The pirates have been in Kenyan custody for four years after being captured by Western navies in the high seas and have been on trial for about two years under an agreement signed between Kenya and Western governments to try the sea robbers caught in foreign waters in Kenya.
Mombasa Senior Principal Magistrate Mrs Joyce Gandani jailed them saying they are guilty of attacking crew aboard a fishing trawler MV Captain St Vincent in the high seas in the Gulf of Aden with offensive weapons on October 27 2009.
The magistrate said she has determined that prosecution evidence and witnesses in the trial of Barre Ali Farah, Abdi Mohamed, Ali Hussen, Abdikarim Nure Shire, Bashir Mohamed Elmu, Abdrizak Abdulahi Ali and Abdfaruk Hussen Ali are credible.
She said Wednesday that the witnesses, mostly foreign sailors aboard the vessel gave an accurate account of events in the act of piracy and dismissed the pirates’ defence that they were fishermen arrested by mistake.
The magistrate said the pirates’ vessel had neither fishing gear nor even cold storage indicating they were in the high seas with ulterior motives.
“I have taken judicial notice of the fact that piracy off Somali Coast has increased in the recent past. It has adversely affected international trade and security in the entire region” said Gandani who also observed that crimes in the high seas ought to be deterred by still penalties.
“I have considered 4 years they have been in the custody. However, stiffer sentence should be preferred to deter others” said Gandani.
The magistrate also said she had considered mitigation of the accused who asked for leniency and pleaded they will not repeat the same mistake.
“I have looked and considered mitigation submitted by the defense” said Gandani who also noted that such charges against can attract a life term in jail but had decided to jail them for twenty years.
Gandani said the convicts can appeal the sentence in 14 days.