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French Navy hands Suspected Pirates to Kenya

The French navy on Friday handed over 11 suspected Somali pirates to Kenya for a judicial investigation and possible trial in the second such transfer by the French forces in weeks, police said. 

"We have 11 suspected pirates handed to us this morning by the French navy," Mombasa port police chief Ayub Gitonga said.

The Somalis were brought to the port city of Mombasa by the Nivose, a French frigate serving in the European Union's anti-piracy force off the coast of Somalia.

The group, captured last weekend onboard two skiffs and a "mother-ship" more than 500 nautical miles off the Kenyan coast, are expected to be charged with piracy either later Friday or Monday, said Gitonga.

Defense Ministry Cmdr. Christophe Prazuck says the French Navy frigate Nivose transferred the suspects to Kenyan authorities in the port of Mombasa on Friday, after intercepting the suspects May 3 off Somalia's coast. A gang of 11 others were handed over on April 22 have already been charged with piracy. Most of those arrested have been handed over to Kenya or the northern Somali breakaway state of Puntland -- a major piracy hub -- but 15 who were involved in attacks on French vessels are awaiting trial in France.

An unclear legal framework has led to confusion in the handling of captured pirate suspects. Kenya is the region's only state to have agreements with most major naval powers facilitating their arrest and transfer.

Human Rights groups already have accused the Kenya judiciary of permanent dealys in processing these cases and the inhuman conditions at infamous Shimo-La-Tewa maximum security prison, where the meanwhile around 70 men accused of piracy - dumped by foreign navies into the Kenya legal system -, are held. "The decision making process of the French navy is completely incoherent and not transparent," stated one French analyst and described the situation by saying: "If you are a pirate and are accused to have attacked a French warship, you get dumped in Kenya, while when you are just a small pirate-fellow on a yacht but a witness to a scene where French commandoes shoot a hostage, you are taken to France."

Source: Ecoterra Intl, May 9, 2009

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