Chrystal Arctic suspects await trial in Seychelles holding facility

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Delivery of suspected pirates to Seychelles authorities five days after an attack on a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden stands as an example of good maritime operations combining, among others, intelligence and speedy reaction.

The take-down was the responsibility of the European Union (EU) Naval Force, Operation Atalanta, deployed in the Indian Ocean off Somalia and patrolling a swathe of water up to Yemen in the north.

A second Atalanta statement this week regarding the attack on the MV Chrystal Artic, a Marshall Islands flagged product tanker, has it the six suspects, all believed to be Somalis, were handed to Seychelles authorities by the crew of the Spanish frigate ESPS Canarias (F86). The handover follows a successful boarding and seizure by Atalanta elements 100 nautical miles north of Bosaso, a Puntland port city, after the MV Chrystal Arctic was attacked on 10 May. The attack was repelled by onboard security, and a number of pirates injured in the process.

Ahead of the handover the Seychelles Internal Affairs Minister, Roy Fonseka, along with Seychelles Police representatives, the National Information Sharing Committee and UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) went onto the Spanish warship for a comprehensive briefing. The suspected pirates are now in custody and awaiting trial.

Operation Atalanta has legal agreements with different nations in its area of operations (AoO), one being Seychelles, allowing for trial of suspected pirates arrested by warships detached to the operation. This, the statement said, is the core of the Atalanta legal finish guaranteeing the process of piracy events from deterrence through to arrest, detention and prosecution in accordance with international law.

Since its inception in 2008, Atalanta has transferred 177 suspected pirates to the competent authorities, of which 145 have been convicted.

According to the EU NavFor, there could be two or more pirate action groups (PAGs) operating off the wider Somalia coastline, which includes the semi-autonomous Puntland region. Two merchant vessels have already been highjacked since December, of which one was rescued by the Indian Navy, and the other reportedly released with its crew after a ransom was paid. Several smaller fishing vessels have also been hijacked by Somali pirates.