A court in France has sentenced three Somali pirates to nine years in jail each for their role in the 2009 hijacking of a French yacht off the coast of Somalia.
The French court on Friday found Mohamed Mahamud, Abdelkader Osman Ali and Mahamud Abdi Mohamed guilty for the hijacking of the 12-metre Tanit sailboat that led to the death of its skipper.
The tree accused, aged between 26 and 31, have been on trial since Monday.
French troops stormed the hijacked yacht in April 2009 and captured the trio during a bid to free Florent Lemacon, his wife, their three-year-old son and two crew members.
They rescued the crew after killing two pirates, but also accidentally shot dead Lemacon during the operation.
The sailboat was carrying tourists to Kenya before being seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on April 4.
The trio had asked for leniency, claiming that they had been coerced into piracy by lives of abject poverty.
Prosecutor Brigitte Ernoult-Cabot rejected the pirates‚Äô claim, saying they had rather been motivated by ‚Äúeasy money‚Äù.
Arnaud Colon de Franciosi, a lawyer for the survivors, said they were not looking ‚Äúfor vengeance‚Äù but that the accused should be ‚Äúheld responsible‚Äù for their acts.
The lawyer said the families of survivors have not criticized soldiers involved in the raid, but have accused the French government of authorizing the ‚Äúdangerous operation‚Äù without enough regard for the hostages.
The Gulf of Aden, which links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea, is the quickest route for more than 20,000 vessels traveling annually between Asia, Europe and the Americas.
However, attacks by heavily armed Somali pirates sailing on speedboats in the region have prompted some of the world’s largest shipping firms to switch routes from the Suez Canal and reroute cargo vessels around southern Africa, which leads to more shipping costs.
Piracy has become a thriving business in the poverty-stricken and lawless Horn of Africa nation, as local gunmen continue to search the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters for hunting ships in order to collect ransom in lieu of their captives’ liberation.