Ten men alleged to be the pirates who attacked a container ship in the Gulf of Aden last month are asking a Dutch court not to send them for trial in Germany.
The Dutch Marines arrested the suspects last month after a firefight
An Amsterdam court on Friday began hearing the case of 10 Somali piracy suspects who are trying to avoid extradition to Germany to face charges.
Prosecutors in Hamburg want the men to face charges of attempted kidnapping for extortion and attacking merchant shipping, which could result in a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
The suspects were arrested April 5 after a Dutch military operation freed the vessel that they allegedly captured, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) from the Somali coast. Fifteen crew members that had taken cover in a protected area of the ship were unharmed, but a Dutch soldier received minor injuries during the firefight with the suspected pirates.
The 10 men were taken to the Netherlands later that month from Djibouti after Germany issued a European warrant for their arrest.
Attorneys for the suspects argue that it has not been proven that the container ship the pirates allegedly attacked was sailing under a German flag. They say the Taipan was operating under the flag of the Bahamas or Liberia. The Netherlands does not send suspects for trial to either of those countries.
But Roland Hoeger, the general director of the company that owns the ship, told news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur (dpa) that the ship was sailing under a German flag when it was seized.
A juvenile pirate?
Somali pirates have also been tried in courts in Spain and Kenya
One of the 10 suspects is a teenager who gave his age as 13, but who investigators say is 16. In either case, he would be tried in juvenile court under Dutch law. But under German law, his lawyers say that he could be tried as an adult.
"According to me, Somalian justice should have reprimanded him and sent him back to his mother - he is just a child of 14," said the teenager's attorney, Robert Malewicz.
In an interview with dpa, the apparent leader of the group, Hussein Arab Mohammed, said that desperate conditions in Somalia led them to try to earn money by piracy.
"In Somalia things are really bad for people. Thirty percent of the population has been killed in the war," Mohammed said, adding that he has to provide for a wife and three children after suffering the deaths of his parents and a sister. "That's the truth; what should I do?"
The Dutch district court is expected to rule on the suspects' request on June 4.
If the suspects are extradited to Germany, it would be the first piracy trial in the country in some 400 years. One of the best known cases was that of pirate Klaus Stoertebeker, who threatened ships in the Baltic and North Seas at the end of the 14th century. He was sentenced to death and beheaded in 1401.
Editor: Martin Kuebler