Trial against Somali pirates may get stuck

Nearly a year after the trial against 120 Somali pirates being held in the city began, the prosecution is facing major hurdles.

Seventy-one foreign nationals held hostage by the pirates in 2011 have not responded to at least four reminders to depose.

"So far, only the Indonesian embassy has replied. They have shown keenness in arranging an interpreter, too. But others have not replied to any of our letters," said special public prosecutor Ranjeet Sangle.

Somali MBA students Mohammed Abdi Aziz Mehmood and Saeed Mohammed, who were appointed interpreters in the case, have withdrawn citing exams

Sessions judge S P Deshmukh has now directed the state home secretary to appoint a new interpreter at the earliest.

"The case cannot proceed unless an interpreter is appointed. On several occasions in the past, I suggested a notification be issued, but students were appointed. There is a pressing need for a professional interpreter, who will be available as per court convenience," said Sangle.

The court has adjourned the trial till February 12 and has directed the state to make necessary arrangements by then.

Four cases of hijacking were clubbed and are being heard by the court on a daily basis. The trial is being conducted through video-conferencing.

"Two accused in each of the four cases are produced on every date," said court-appointed defence lawyer Sooraj Hulke.

"I brought to court knowledge that some accused are conversant with English as well as Hindi and there is no need for an interpreter," Sangle said.

The pirates were captured by Indian Navy after a Coast Guard alert about hijacked vessels. The navy rounded up 120 pirates in several raids and rescued 70 hostages belonging to India, Thailand, The Philippines, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey, Myanmar and Pakistan.

Arms such as AK-47 rifles with magazines and rocket launchers were recovered from the pirates nabbed off the western coast of India.

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