BERLIN A German court sentenced a Somali asylum-seeker to 12 years in jail on Thursday, for his involvement in the pirate hijacking of a tanker in the Indian Ocean in 2010.
The judge in the Osnabrueck court in northern Germany said the man was guilty of kidnapping and severe extortion. The ship was released for a ransom of $5.5 million after eight months in the hands of Somali pirates.
"After four months of extensive evidence gathering, the court is convinced that the 44-year-old Somalian was a leading member of the pirates who kidnapped a chemical tanker," said the court in a statement.
The man was not named. German courts do not usually provide the full names of defendants.
The Marshall Islands-flagged "Marida Marguerite" was seized by pirates firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades south of Oman in May 2010.
Of the tanker's 22-member crew, most were from India. One testified at the trial.
The court agreed with prosecutors who had argued that the man was a leading member of the pirate gang, that he had taken important decisions on board, had a lot of responsibility and at times led the group.
During the hijacking, the crew were subjected to torture, including mock executions, said the court. A shot was fired next to the captain's head.
The Somali received a significant part of the ransom money, said the court, which media have reported was parachuted onto the tanker's deck.
Giving evidence in court, the man admitted to being involved in the hijacking, to guarding hostages and carrying an AK-47 rifle. However, he denied accusations he was a leader of the pirates and said he issued no orders and was unaware of any torture being inflicted.
Prosecutors had called for a 12-1/2 year jail term while the defense asked for seven years.
The Somali man, who could still appeal, was arrested in Germany in 2013 while seeking asylum.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Noah Barkin and Andrew Roche)