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Germany Turns Somali Pirates Over to Kenya for Prosecution

Nine alleged pirates arrested by a German frigate last week were handed over to Mombasa on Tuesday. As a major oil transit route, Somalia's coast is prone to pirate attacks.

German navy frigate and high-speed boats operated by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden

Heavily armed pirates use speedboats to launch attacks

Germany turned over nine pirates, arrested for attacking a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast last week, to Kenya on Tuesday, March 10.

The German navy frigate Rheinland Pfalz had seized the alleged pirates when they used bazookas and firearms to attack a German-owned merchant vessel. Since there were no German crew members and the vessel was sailing under an Antiguan flag, prosecutors in Berlin stated that national interests were not sufficiently at stake to try the captives in Germany.

Although most pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden are from Somalia, a former Italian colony located in the horn of Africa, the nation lacks a functioning legal system to stage a proper trial.

Handover possible after EU-Kenyan deal

Speedboat filled with Somali pirates in Gulf of Aden

Since last year 24 pirates in all were handed over to Kenya

But Kenya, which borders Somalia to the southwest, has a justice system that meets the requirements set by Germany, although human rights advocates have been critical of prison conditions there.

Human Rights Watch has said that inmates could be held in detention for months without any charges being pressed and are often denied legal counsel.

Tuesday's handover was only possible after an agreement between the European Union and Kenya had paved the way for Somali nationals to be prosecuted in Kenya.

The EU had specified in a deal last week that the captives cannot be subjected to torture or the death sentence. They would have the right to appear before a judge in a short period of time, would be entitled to legal representation and would be provided with an interpreter if needed.

Gulf of Aden vulnerable to attack

Kenya's marine police commander Stanley Lenamai told the Associated Press that the suspected pirates, who had arrived in the port city Mombasa on Tuesday, will be taken to court as soon as interpreters for them are found.

The nine suspects bring the total number of people delivered to Kenyan courts by foreign navies to 24.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the Liberian-flagged oil tanker MV Sirius Star is at anchor in the Gulf of Aden

Pirates demanded $25 million for super-tanker Sirius Star and crew

More than 100 ships were attacked last year by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The Gulf of Aden is a vital transit route leading to the Suez Canal, where roughly 30 percent of the world's oil is transported.

NATO, the EU and other countries, including Russia and China, have deployed warships to fight piracy and protect the lucrative multi-billion dollar shipping lanes from the heavily armed pirates who use high-powered speedboats to launch their attacks and kidnap crew members.

The German frigate that apprehended the nine men is part of the EU's anti-piracy mission Atalanta.

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