Somali 'pirates' apologise as Paris trial heads to verdict
Thursday, 01 December 2011 | 11:00
Six Somali men accused of taking a French couple hostage on their yacht apologised to their victims on Wednesday as their unprecedented piracy trial wrapped up in Paris.
A verdict in the trial -- the first time France has prosecuted alleged Somali pirates -- was due later Wednesday.
Prosecutors have asked for the men, aged between 21 and 36, to be sentenced to between six and 16 years in prison on the charges of hijacking, kidnapping and armed robbery.
The six allegedly seized the yacht and its crew, Jean-Yves Delanne and his wife Bernadette, both aged 60, off the coast of Somalia in 2008 and demanded a $2 million (1.5 million euro) ransom.
They were captured and flown to France after French special forces stormed the yacht, the Carre d'As IV, and rescued the couple. A seventh suspect was killed in the raid.
"I ask Mr. and Mrs. Delanne to forgive me for the harm I caused them," one of the Somalis, Sheikh Nur Jama Mohamud, said as the accused were given a final chance to speak.
"I wish them a good and long life," said another of the accused, Mohamed Hassan Yacub, adding he hoped his sentence will be "as lenient as possible."
The youngest of the accused, Yusuf, who was a minor at the time of the hijacking, said he hoped to eventually "rebuild my life in France".
After Wednesday's hearing, the two victims walked up to the accused and greeted them. "Good luck," Bernadette Delanne told them.
Since the start of the trial the couple were surprisingly forgiving of their former captors, saying they were not mistreated during the kidnapping.
Four of the accused admitted to carrying out the hostage-taking, saying they were desperately poor and needed the money.
One said he was a fisherman who happened to be on the yacht when it was stormed and another claimed he was a hostage of the armed kidnappers.
On Tuesday defence lawyers had urged the court to show leniency, saying sentences of up to 16 years were disproportionate to the crime as the Somalis did not have "blood on their hands".
"This is the first time since the 18th century that this country has judged a case of piracy," defence lawyer Cedric Alepee said, noting that the accused did not have "wooden legs, parrots on their shoulders or eye patches."