MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Four Somali pirates were sentenced to seven years each in prison on Wednesday by a Kenyan court that found them guilty of hijacking a fishing dhow in the Indian Ocean in 2010.
Prosecutors told the court in Mombasa the four were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, an AK-47 rifle, a pistol and other weapons when they took control of the dhow by firing at the crew.
Although the number of attacks has fallen markedly since 2011 thanks to tougher security aboard ships and increased Western naval patrols, piracy emanating from the Horn of Africa nation may still cost the world economy about $18 billion a year, the World Bank said in April.
The men, Abdirahman Isse Mohamed, Mohamed Osman Farah, Feisal Abdi Muse and Noor Ali Mohamed, were arrested by Spanish naval forces and handed over to Kenyan authorities, as Somalia was not considered able to try them properly.
They all denied the charges of piracy.
The men’s lawyer, Jared Magolo, branded the sentence unfair as they had been detained for three years before the trial at a maximum security Kenyan prison and said he would seek his clients’ consent to appeal.
Kenya is one of a few countries that are prosecuting pirates, alongside Seychelles and Mauritius. But the cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute and take a long time to complete.
In July, nine Somalis were sentenced in Kenya to five years in prison each for attempting to hijack a German merchant vessel MV Courier in the Gulf of Aden in March 2009.
Another nine Somalis were handed a similar sentence in June, after also being found guilty of hijacking a ship in the Gulf of Aden in 2010.
In a sign that piracy is still a threat, the European Union Naval Force for Somalia, said last week that a fully loaded crude oil supertanker fought off and repulsed pirates off the Somali coast on October 11.
Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Editing by George Obulutsa and Alison Williams