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Terrorism & Security

Historic Somali piracy trial in US wrapping up as German one opens

The Somali piracy trials, the first in centuries, have shed light on counterpiracy efforts. But some say the trials will not deter pirates, who have hijacked 37 ships in 2010 alone.

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The Dutch Navy boarded the ship after a gun battle and then handed the pirates over to Germany. According to AFP, the crew escaped harm by "hiding in a so-called 'panic room.' "

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AFP noted that decapitation used to be the sentence for piracy in the German port of Hamburg. These men face a 15-year prison sentence instead.

Experts quoted by AFP said they doubt the trials will deter pirates; in fact they might even encourage some. "Spending three, five, even seven years in a European or American jail followed by political asylum – you can't do much better as a Somali man," Anja Shortland, who studies piracy at the German Institute for Economic Research, told AFP.

Already this year there have been 164 piracy incidents, with 37 hijackings, 700 people taken hostage and 12 killed or hurt, according to The Daily Telegraph.

In 2009, there were 214 attacks, 47 hijackings and 867 people taken hostage, according to a report from international law firm Ince & Co. The report noted that more than 60 percent of pirates who are captured are simply released, demonstrating "a collective lack of political will to arrest and prosecute pirates in courts."

The Telegraph reported this weekend that the British government is in "secret talks" to send taxpayer-funded mercenaries to train Somali forces to battle pirates like those that held British citizens Paul and Rachel Chandler for more than a year after seizing their sailing yacht.

Acting as "mentors" the ex-SBS men will be allowed to accompany the new crews on patrols going into action in armed encounters with the gangs.

Operating in fast boats capable of outrunning the pirates' converted fishing vessels, the plan is to retake the coastline and prevent the pirates from putting to sea or returning to shore with kidnap victims.

The Chandlers told the Telegraph in remarks published this weekend that their Somali captors were "misguided," and said they practiced yoga and aerobics to keep fit while being held.

"People will expect us to want these people dead," Mrs. Chandler told the Telegraph. "But we do not. We actually want to make close contact with Somali people when we get back to England and try to persuade the international community to help restore law and order in their country. That way our suffering will not have been in vain."

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