Indian courts yet to pass verdict on Somali piracy suspects- lawyer




No Somali piracy suspect detained in India has been sentenced to death, let alone a verdict reached, an advocate representing the accused has said.

In a statement to newsrooms Monday, Vishwajeet Singh for the accused said reports circulating in the media that Somali piracy suspects in Indian jails had been sentenced to death by Indian courts following a guilty verdict over piracy in the high seas were false and misleading.

“Awarding of sentence is possible only after pronouncement of conviction. In this case, only a voluntary plea of guilt has so far been submitted to the Honorable court on 20th September 2016 and the court is yet to make a decision on the fate of those pleas by all Somali prisoners, except one who has refused to sign the plea,” said Singh.

The advocate said the next hearing will come up September 30 this year and only after that shall the court issue its guilty or no guilty verdict.

Singh also ruled out the likelihood of a death penalty noting the cases were not grave enough to warrant such sentence though he admitted the cases fall within the province of death penalty. He argued neither an Indian citizen was killed nor the offence committed within the remit of India’s territorial waters, both recipes for possible death penalties.

Therefore news reports that some prisoners are facing death penalty are false, premature and speculative, warned Singh.

Somali government confirmed last year one of the suspects passed on in jail after contracting tuberculosis.

The advocate’s response comes amid reports the Indian court had sentenced the piracy suspects to death. Demonstrations entered the second day today in Gallkayo, central Somalia following reports the suspects had been sentenced to death.

Somalia has also called on the Indian government to release the suspects noting they should serve jail terms in the country should they be handed sentences.

The suspects were arrested between 2011 and 2012 by the Indian navy at the height of piracy in the Indian Ocean. source Goobjoog

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Mareeg senior news editor since 2001 and he can be reached at news@mareeg.com