Five Somali pirates, captured in last week’s military operation that freed a hijacked South Korean freighter, could face up to life in prison if they are brought here and convicted in local courts for committing robbery and wounding sailors under the South Korean law, government officials here said Wednesday.
The South Korean Navy commando last Friday killed eight pirates and captured five others during a mission to rescue the Samho Jewelry in the Arabian Sea, while saving all of the 21 seamen held hostage for a week. During the military operation, a 58-year-old Korean captain was shot in the stomach by the pirates and is now undergoing treatment at a hospital in Oman.
“Although it is too early to determine how the prosecution of the Somalis would be carried out, there will be no legal hurdle to indict and stand them in local courts under the South Korean criminal law,” said Kwon Jeong-hoon of the international criminal department at the Justice Ministry. “We have been reviewing overseas cases and jurisprudence to find possible charges against them.”
South Korean courts have jurisdiction of foreigners who commit crimes against its citizens overseas. Under the current offshore robbery laws, those who hijack or break into others’ freights can face anywhere from seven years up to life in jail, with three-year aggravated terms if they injure sailors.
After the freed ship and the captured pirates arrive in South Korea, regional maritime police office in the southern port city of Busan, where the cargo ship company is located, will likely investigate them and send the case to the local prosecutors’ office for an indictment, officials noted.
Prosecutors said they are considering requesting a warrant to arrest the pirates for the probe.
Public prosecutors under the Korean legal system will make the decision on whether to press charges.