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Captured pirates likely to be prosecuted in Kenya

Captured pirates likely to be prosecuted in Kenya

Hamburg: Nine pirates captured by the German Navy off the Somali coast are likely to be transferred to Kenya for prosecution, government sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

A specially convened commission, representing Germany's Interior, Foreign, Defence and Justice ministries, explored unchartered legal territory during discussions late Wednesday. This is the first time in the country's modern history that the German Navy has made any apprehensions at sea. A final decision is expected to be announced by the commission on Thursday.

The German Navy frigate Rheinland Pfalz took part Tuesday in a dramatic rescue action after pirates, armed with anti-tank rocket launchers and firearms, attacked a German merchant vessel off the Somali coast.

The MV Courier, owned by a Bremen-based shipping company, had been sailing under an Antiguan flag. No German nationals were on board.

The Interior Ministry said Wednesday that there were no grounds for a German prosecution of the captured men, because no German interests were judged to have been endangered in the attack.

Germany currently has no agreement with third countries under which the pirates could be prosecuted. Authorities hope to quickly strike a deal with Kenya, which already has such arrangements with France and Britain, government sources told dpa.

The nine men can no longer expect to be released without facing legal due process, after prosecutors in Hamburg launched initial investigations Wednesday.

Under European law, which applies to the German naval mission, pirates can be held for up to 12 days. The men are to stay on board the Rheinland Pfalz until a decision is reached.

The frigate is part of the EU's anti-piracy mission Atalanta in the Gulf of Aden, which Germany joined in December.  [05/03/09]