Prosecutors on Monday demanded 12-year prison terms for two Somalis being tried on charges of boarding and attempting to hijack a Bahama-registered oil tanker operated by a Japanese company in the Indian Ocean in 2011.
This is the first case being prosecuted under the 2009 antipiracy law, which stipulates that those found guilty can be sentenced to between five years to life. The Tokyo District Court is expected to hand down its ruling Friday.
During Monday’s session, prosecutors stressed that the acts allegedly committed by Mohamed Urgus Adeysey and Abdinur Hussein Ali, including shooting rifles multiple times and attempting to take the 24-member crew aboard the tanker hostage, constituted “dangerous and malicious” acts.
“Given the suffering the crew went through because of the act of piracy, the gravity of the damages and the fact that both defendants participated in the attack to gain money through ransom, makes this an especially vicious hijacking,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
Because of the unprecedented nature of the trial, prosecutors explained that they referred to past rulings on multiple shootings involving yakuza and a kidnap-for-ransom case where the offender used a knife to abduct a child and succeeded in collecting money.
Both Adeysey and Ali have owned up to trying to hijack the tanker Guanabara, operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., on March 5, 2011, with the intention of seizing control and taking the 24 members of the crew hostage. The two and another Somali pair who were with them were seized by the U.S. Navy and turned over to Japan. The other two are being tried separately, including one who may have been a minor at the time of the boarding.
The lawyers for Adeysey and Ali argued that the pair should receive suspended prison sentences, because the defendants grew up in an unstable country with little money and no opportunity to learn to read or write.
The defendants “were born and raised in a completely different world from we Japanese, and I would like to ask the court to consider ruling based not on our common sense but on the situation” that led the defendants to commit the act, one of the lawyers said.
The defense team also pointed out that none of the crew was physically injured and that the hijacking itself failed, stressing that these factors should also mitigate toward leniency.