In the third case involving Somali pirates, 27 men were convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment by a sessions court on Friday. The men have been convicted under charges, including attempt to murder, kidnapping and relevant sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Arms Act. They were acquitted of charges, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder and kidnapping for ransom.
According to the prosecution, on February 5, 2011, authorities of the Indian Coast Guard had received information that a merchant ship, M V Chois, flying a Greek flag, was attacked. When Coast Guard authorities reached the area, their radar detected a small ship. It was suspected to be a pirate vessel as it had no lights and it was not a fishing area.
A small boat was seen getting detached from the vessel and coming towards the Coast Guard ship, Samar. The Coast Guard authorities fired at the boat and observed that people on it returning to the mother vessel. Despite attempts to contact the mother vessel, later identified as Prantalaya 11, there was no response. The mother vessel was hijacked by the Somali men in April 2010 and had been identified from a list of hijacked vessels given by the international task force for anti-piracy.
The pirates fired in retaliation but later, began waving a white flag to surrender. The men were rescued and identified to be 52 foreign nationals, 28 from Somalia and 24 from Thailand, who were the original crew members. A case was registered at the Yellow Gate police station in Mumbai. The prosecution, led by special public prosecutor Ranjeet Sangle, examined 12 witnesses, including Coast Guard officials.
The court observed that charges under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code could not be proved against them. “Neither the informant nor any other witness has stated that there is a homicidal death of any person at the hands of accused person,” the court observed.
It found that evidence had shown that five live rounds, 20 empty cartridges, two ammunition belts and eight empty magazines had been seized from the men, which proved allegations under the Arms Act against them. On Friday, the court was informed that one of the 28, Atoor Bashir Bare, was admitted to J J hospital after he developed complications due to diabetes and tuberculosis. The court has directed that Bare should be produced before it whenever he recovers so that sentence can be pronounced against him.
One of the 28 men initially arrested, Ahmed Qalif Mahamed, passed away while he was in Taloja jail. The court is likely to pronounce the last judgment in the fourth case against over 60 Somali men by next week. The men, who have spent more than six years in jail, are likely to be deported to serve the remaining term of the sentence.