South Korean court jails four Somali pirates

Somali pirates wearing green prison uniforms sit together with South Korean security guards as hearings begin at a court in the southern port city of Busan This has been a high-profile case for South Korea - believed to be the first piracy trial held in the country

A Somali pirate has been jailed for life by a South Korean court, after being convicted of the attempted murder of the captain of a hijacked ship.

Mahomed Araye was one of several Somalis seized in January when South Korean special forces stormed a cargo ship hijacked in the Arabian Sea.

Another man was sentenced to 15 years; two others received 13-year terms.

The trial marks the first attempt by South Korea - a major seafaring nation - to punish foreign pirates.

The court in the port city of Busan ruled that only Araye had been involved in the shooting of Capt Seok Hae-Kyun, who is still recovering in hospital.

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Araye, and life imprisonment for his accomplices, saying the pirates had used the captive crew as human shields during the raid by South Korean forces.

Eight pirates were killed and five were arrested during the mission to recapture the South Korean-owned Samho Jewelry on 15 January, six days after it was seized.

Defence lawyers argued the ballistic evidence linking Araye to the shooting of the captain was thin, and that no one saw him fire.

In the course of the trial, prosecutors also said that a British man working in the insurance industry contacted the Samho shipping company shortly after the kidnapping, allegedly to broker a possible deal with the hijackers.

A fifth suspect is being tried separately, and will be sentenced next week.

The Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Somalia, is one of the world's busiest shipping routes and has become a hotspot for pirate attacks.

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