Six Mozambicans may testify in trial of Somali pirates

Mateen Hafeez

MUMBAI: Six Mozambicans may depose in the trial of 120 Somali pirates.

The Mozambique government is the first nation among seven countries, whose nationals were taken hostage by the pirates in 2011, to send its citizens. “The Mozambique embassy has sent a letter to the state government giving a green signal to its nationals. They will be deposing before a Sewri fast-track court,” said a source in the security establishment.

“For the first time, Pakistan has given its word to send five nationals to India as witnesses. Earlier, Pakistan did not respond to our request to send the witnesses,” he added.

Myanmar, Bangladesh and¬†Iran¬†have also agreed to send their nationals. Myanmar has requested that they should be given seven days’ notice before the trial, while Iran has fixed an advanced time limit of two months.

The court was scheduled to hear the testimony of foreign witnesses from Tuesday. The 74 nationals taken hostage belong to Pakistan, Myanmar, Mozambique, Iran, Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

“Maharashtra government has allotted Rs 19.90 lakh for the travel and other expenses of foreign witnesses. Once we get the details about witnesses we will start the procedure to book flights and¬†hotels,” said a source. Each foreign witness will be given one day for examination and cross-examination, police said.

Of these 74 witnesses, 40 had given their statements before a magistrate before leaving India in 2011. Some had even identified the accused.

The pirates had hijacked several ships like ‘Vega 5’ and ‘Al-Murtuza’ and held their crew hostage. The pirates later demanded collectively $20 million from various countries to set their nationals free.

In February and March 2011, the Indian Navy and coast guard rescued 74 hostages. “The pirates have been charged with kidnapping, murder and waging war against India. Sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have also been slapped against the accused,” said an officer. The accused are lodged in Taloja and the trial is taking place in the Sewri court through video conferencing.


Original Article