Stating that seven of the 28 Somali pirates arrested off the Lakshadweep coast on February 6 appeared to be minors, the metropolitan magistrate’s court, on Friday, directed the police to collect evidence to prove their ages.
Though described to be over 18 years of age by the police, metropolitan magistrate of Ballard Pier court, CW Meshram, observed that seven pirates — Ibrahim Noor, Ahsan Mahmood, Mahomed Musee, Atoor Bare, Noor Xersi, Madar Abdi and Shafee Maxammed — appear to be below 18 years of age.
The Indian Coast Guard had, on Sunday, arrested the 28 Somali pirates who attacked the Greek-flagged merchant ship Chois off the Lakshadweep coast. They were apprehended when after approaching a Coast Guard ship they tried to return to Prantalay 11, a fishing trawler hijacked by them last year.
The 24 Thai and Myanmar residents taken hostage by the pirates were released and all the apprehended pirates were subsequently handed over to the Yellow Gate police at Mumbai.
The fact that the pirates purportedly understand only their mother tongue and none of the languages known to our local police is adding to the hurdles.
“We are facing difficulties as the language barrier is leading to obstacles in verifying their nationality, address and recording statements,” said Quaiser Khalid, deputy commissioner of police (port zone). “We have asked the African Studies Department of the University of Mumbai to provide us with translators to assist in the investigation.”
Moreover, as the incident occurred off the Lakshadweep coast, collecting evidence from the crime scene too is becoming tough, said a senior police official.
The police also divulged that they plan to house the 24 hostages from the current operation and 20 from the previous operation on January 29 on Pranatalaya 11, the trawler that is currently anchored along the Mumbai coast.
A senior police official confirmed that contrary to the claims made by two of the accused, the Kenyan embassy had informed the Yellow Gate police station that none of the 15 pirates arrested on January 29 belonged to Kenya.
The 15 pirates had allegedly tried to loot a foreign vessel MV Verdi and have been remanded to judicial custody by the Ballard Pier court till February 14.