A suspected Somali pirate captured after the hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat will face trial in the high court because a second medical test has confirmed he is older than 18, court sources said yesterday.
The Spanish navy captured the two Somalis in the Indian Ocean shortly after pirates overran the tuna boat Alakrana on October 2 and took hostage its multinational crew of 36.
The pirates are still in control of the boat from the Basque Country in northern Spain, and have said they will not discuss the crew’s release until their two comrades are freed.
A Spanish court had decided to hand the younger suspect over to a juvenile court after an initial test based on samples taken from his wrist suggested he may be less than 18.
Court sources said a more exact test based on the suspect’s teeth showed he was in fact old enough to face trial in a high court alongside the other suspect whose age was not in doubt.
The young man will appear in a juvenile court as originally scheduled today, but prosecutors will ask the judge to turn the case over to the high court.
Somali pirate gangs have caused havoc to shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in recent years, emboldened by millions of dollars in ransom payments.
But foreign navies were deployed off the Gulf of Aden at the beginning of the year and have guarded convoys along a transit corridor for merchant ships to pass through vulnerable points.
The number of attacks have now fallen in the Gulf of Aden, but pirates now sail further afield into the Indian Ocean where the vast open sea makes it harder to detect their small craft.
Spain has tried to garner support from Somalia’s government to free the crew aboard the Alakrana. But the government only controls a small portion of the country, the rest of which is run by breakaway groups and Islamist rebels.