Five Somali pirates captured by French commandos in 2008 were sentenced to between four to eight years in jail by a Paris court for their role in hijacking a yacht in the Gulf of Aden that year and kidnapping two French citizens.
The trial was the first of four to be held in France in a bid to increase the number of Somali pirates brought to justice and tackle a problem that has turned the waters off the Horn of Africa into some of the most perilous in the world.
Piracy is rife in the waters off Somalia, with the international community powerless to act, Reuters reports.
The men on trial were aged 21 to 36, with the prosecutor asking for jail sentences of between six to 16 years for attacking the yacht Carre d’As in September 2008, and holding Jean-Yves Delanne and wife Bernadette for ransom for 10 days until they were freed by French commandos.
A sixth man was acquitted.
The pirates had originally demanded a ransom of $4 million, but subsequently lowered their price to $2 million, and called for the release of six other pirates held in Paris.
The men had asked for forgiveness earlier in the day and requested leniency in their sentences.
Twenty-two Somali pirates are awaiting trial in France, charged with attacks on French ships near the Horn of Africa.
Of those on trial, some had already confessed to the crime. Others said they were forced to carry out the hijacking by criminal gangs that have sprung up in Somalia after 20 years of civil war that has brought widespread lawlessness.
A total of 243 hostages and 10 vessels are being held for multi-million-dollar ransoms, according to figures from EU Navfor, the European Union’s anti-piracy task force.