Hostages Held As Pirates Return Tanker

Somali pirates continued to hold captive four South Korean crew members, including the captain, despite releasing the 29,871 tonne chemical tanker Gemini on Thursday, writes Tom Leander in Hong Kong.

Owned by Singapore shipping company Glory Ship Management , Gemini was carrying crude palm oil from Indonesia when it was hijacked 215 days ago off the east African coast, according to GSM.

The company said the pirates had agreed to release all crew members on returning the ship, but released only 21 of the 25-strong crew, which included 13 seafarers from Indonesia, five from China and three from Burma.

GSM said: “We are relieved that 21 of the crew have been released and are in good health. We will expedite their speedy return home. In the meantime, we are expending all efforts to secure the release of the South Koreans still held as hostage.”

In a separate case, a Paris court sentenced five Somali pirates to between four and eight years in jail. French commandos arrested the men in 2008 for their role in hijacking a yacht in the Gulf of Aden and kidnapping two French citizens. A sixth man was acquitted in the case.

The men on trial were aged 21 to 36. The prosecutor asked for jail sentences between six to 16 years for attacking the yacht Carre d’As in September 2008. The pirates held Jean-Yves and Bernadette Delanne captive for 10 days and demanded a ransom payment.

The trial was the first of four, held as France steps up its drive to bring Somali pirates to justice. It plans to try 22 Somali nationals for attacking French ships near the Horn of Africa.

News of the sentencing drew a swift reaction from Giles Heimann, chair of the international shipping industry anti-piracy campaign SOS SaveOurSeafarers.

“The shipping industry organisations backing SOS SaveOurSeafarers are delighted to see the French government and judicial systems take decisive action over Somali piracy,” Mr Heimann said.

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