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Somali pirates captured by German navy go on trial

The trial of nine suspected pirates apprehended by the German navy in March got underway in the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

German military personnel escort a suspected Somali pirate on board the German frigate Rheinland-Pfalz

German naval vessels have been bringing alleged Somali pirates to Mombasa

Under a deal with the European Union, Kenya has agreed to try pirates detained by warships serving with an EU mission combating attacks on merchant ships off the coast of Somalia.

The nine men who went on trial on Wednesday were arrested early in March when a German navy ship responded to a distress call from the German merchant vessel MV Courier. Witnesses said the pirates had attacked the MV Courier with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.

Germany also delivered another seven suspected pirates to Kenya earlier this month after they attacked the German navy tanker Spessart.

The prosecutions in Kenya are seen as crucial in dealing with the pirates, who operate in international waters under hazy legal conditions.

But critics say that the Kenyan legal system is not developed enough to ensure the suspects get a fair trial.

Dutch and Canadian vessels which caught two separate groups of pirates at the weekend were forced to release their captives as their laws did not provide for their prosecution.

A teenage pirate who was allegedly part of the gang that hijacked the US-flagged Maersk Alabama is also on trial in the US.

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