TOKYO (AFP) – A Japanese court on Friday sentenced an African man, one of four who attempted to hijack a Japanese tanker off the coast of Oman, to 11 years in jail, a report said.
The 21-year-old man was a juvenile under Japanese law at the time of the incident and among four Africans, believed to be from Somalia, arrested in March 2011 over the attack in the Indian Ocean, Jiji Press said.
Men armed with submachine guns tried to seize the tanker, which was operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and had 24 crew members aboard, the report said.
US Navy personnel captured the men and handed them over to Japan’s coastguard, which for the first time applied the nation’s new anti-piracy law to transport them to Tokyo to face trial.
The defendant, who was not named because of his age at the time of the crime, had pleaded not guilty, saying the small boat he was aboard was simply adrift and had asked for help from the tanker, Jiji said.
But the judge determined he was part of the attempted hijacking from the testimonies of other men, it said.
Two of the African men, who were adults at the time, were earlier given a jail term of 10 years, while the fourth man, also a juvenile at the time, was given a jail term of no less than five and no more than nine years.
The court used two sets of interpreters — one from Japanese to English and another from English to Somali.
After a spike at the start of the last decade, successful pirate attacks on commercial vessels sailing off the Horn of Africa have diminished, deterred by an international deployment of warships to patrol the coast.
Somali pirates have been tried in countries including the Netherlands and South Korea.