A Somali pirate who hijacked a South Korean freighter and shot its captain early this year was sentenced to serve the rest of his life in a Korean prison.
The Busan District Court on Friday handed down life imprisonment to Mahomed Arai, 21, the leader of five pirates captured on the hijacked ship, Samho Jewelry, for attempted murder, maritime robbery and six other offenses.
Three others -- Abdikhad Iman Ali, Abdullah Ali and Aul Brallat -- were sentenced to between 13 and 15 years in prison for their role in the attack. It was the first ever piracy trial in South Korea.
Five pirates were captured in January when South Korean naval commandos raided Samho Jewelry in the Arabian Sea, rescuing all 21 crew members and killing 8 pirates. The fifth pirate captured had a separate trial because he pleaded guilty to all of his charges. He will be sentenced on June 1.
The prosecutors had sought a death sentence for Arai and lifetime imprisonment for three other pirates.
The prosecutors had claimed that Arai shot the freighter’s captain, Seok Hae-kyun, and used crew members as human shields during the raid, citing the other crew members’ statements that they saw Arai carrying a rifle and heard gunshots right after Arai was seen looking for the captain.
The prosecution argued that Seok was injured by an AK rifle, which the pirates used. It also presented crew members’ statements as evidence that they were forced to move out to a wing bridge of the ship in a hail of bullets.
Legal representatives of the accused, however, argued that nobody witnessed Arai shooting the captain and only a fragment related to the AK rifle was found in Seok’s body. They said the pirates had not meant to take the sailors up to the wing bridge to use them as human shields.
The court found Arai guilty of all charges against him.
By Lee Sun-young and news reports (firstname.lastname@example.org)