SOMALI pirates who hijacked a Spanish Naval vessel after mistaking it for a private civilian boat are facing tougher sentences following a Supreme Court ruling.
The six men, who invaded the Patiño in the Indian Ocean in 2012, were said to be ‘sufficiently armed’ and to ‘have the intention to take over control of the ship’ and ‘demand a ransom’.
Initially, they were facing between eight and 12 years in jail for an attempted hijack, but a Supreme Court judge in Spain considers that the hijack was in fact achieved even though the fact the ship turned out to belong to the Armed Forces meant the intruders did not get as far as kidnapping the occupants and calling for ransom money.
A First Officer who was on night duty warned officials at around 03.00hrs local time on January 12, 2012 that a passenger boat was trailing the Patiño along its side, and that the occupants were armed and trying to board the ship.
When the Naval officers reacted, the pirates fired a volley of shots at the vessel, making contact with the hull in six places.
Eventually, after what was described as an exchange of gunshots between the two boats’ occupants lasting about two minutes at most, the pirates fled.
The Naval officers pursued them and managed to detain them about an hour after they were first seen.
Those on board the Patiño say the pirates had ‘hand grenades, bags, ladders and an indeterminate number of rifles’.
The Supreme Court considered that the shots which damaged the ship were enough to consider that the hijack had been ‘achieved’ rather than being ‘attempted’, meaning the six pirates’ sentences have been increased by five years to between 13 and 17 years each.