A Spanish court said yesterday it would free one of two suspected Somali pirates captured after the hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat because he appeared to be under 18-years-old.
The immediate future of the suspect, whose name was erased from the official court document announcing the decision because his age could be less than 18, will now be in the hands of Spain’s juvenile justice system, which could send him to a juvenile correction centre.
The two Somalis were captured by the Spanish navy in the Indian Ocean shortly after the tuna boat Alakrana was overrun on Oct. 2 and its multinational crew of 36 taken hostage.
The pirates are still in control of the boat, whose home port is in the Basque Country in northern Spain, have said they will not negotiate the crew’s release until their two comrades are freed.
The freeing of the young suspect did not appease them.
“Releasing only one of our friends will only worsen our relations with Spain,” Hussein, an associate of the gang holding the ship, told Reuters by telephone from the pirate stronghold Haradheere.
“We ask them to free our other friend otherwise our talks will not succeed and their people will remain imprisoned like our colleague.”
Spain has tried to enlist the support of Somalia’s government to obtain the liberation of the Alakrana.
China has said it was starting a rescue operation for a coal ship seized, leading to a threat yesteday from the pirates to kill the Chinese sailors onboard.
Despite patrols by foreign navies through shipping lanes linking Asia to Europe, pirates have continued to make millions of dollars by holding for ransom vessels caught in the waters off Somalia.