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Denmark finds Nigerian guilty in pirate trial

November 28, 2022

The man was part of a group of suspected pirates involved in a firefight with Danish soldiers in the Gulf of Guinea, but won't face jail despite his conviction.

The Danish war ship "Esbern Snare" during an emergency drill in the sea between Cyprus and Syria
The Gulf of Guinea is one of the world's most dangerous waterways with regular kidnappingsImage: Petros Karadjias/AP Photo/picture alliance

A Danish court on Monday found a Nigerian man guilty of endangering the lives of military personnel during a gunfight last year with Danish troops on an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Guinea.

However, the court declined to punish the man because of his health, and his suspected accomplices had been released.

"The court emphasized that the man, together with the other perpetrators, fulfilled all the signs of piracy and had to be described as a pirate group," Copenhagen city court said in a statement.

He was, however, never charged with piracy, but prosecutors argued that as a member of the suspected pirate gang, he had "caused imminent danger to the lives of the Danish helicopter crew."

Battle on the high seas

He was arrested in November last year when the Danish frigate, Esbern Snare, was patrolling international waters off Nigeria to protect merchant ships.

A helicopter from the ship spotted the suspected pirate vessel and when Danish soldiers tried to board it a firefight ensued.

Three other suspects were detained after the fight but later released. Four others were killed and a fifth fell overboard, the Danish authorities said.

The only reason the suspect was able to be charged was that he was brought to Denmark to receive medical care for his wounds.  He was put on trial after needing a leg amputation.

He will remain in custody as the prosecution immediately appealed the ruling.

How much piracy is there in the Gulf of Guinea?

The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches 5,700 kilometers (3,500 miles) from Senegal to Angola, has been the world's biggest piracy hotspot in recent years.

However, the International Maritime Bureau reports global piracy and armed robbery incidents have reached their lowest levels since 1992.

Only 13 incidents were reported in the Gulf of Guinea in the first 9 months of this year.

Denmark redeployed the frigate earlier this year "due to the deterioration of the security situation in Europe."

lo/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)