Denmark frees three suspected Nigerian pirates at sea, detains fourth

COPENHAGEN, Jan 7 (Reuters) - A suspected Nigerian pirate captured by the Danish navy in the Gulf of Guinea in November and brought to Denmark for prosecution appeared in court in Copenhagen on Friday charged with the attempted manslaughter of Danish soldiers.

Three other suspected Nigerian pirates picked up by a Danish frigate at the same time and who faced the same charges were freed on Thursday after Denmark failed to find a country in the region to take them, the Danish Armed Forces said.

The three, who had been detained aboard the frigate Esbern Snare in the Gulf of Guinea, were put to sea in a small dinghy with enough food and fuel for them to reach safely to shore, after the charges against them were withdrawn.

"They have no relation to Denmark, and the crime they have been charged with was committed far from Denmark. They simply do not belong here, and that's why I think it's the right thing to do," Danish Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said in a statement.

The frigate, which deployed off West Africa in October, intervened in an alleged attack on a commercial vessel the following month, killing four pirates and taking another four suspects on board the frigate. Denmark has since failed to find a country in the region to agree to take the four. read more

The fourth suspect, who was taken to a hospital in Ghana with injuries and later had one leg amputated, was brought to Denmark for prosecution because he could not safely be released at sea due to his medical condition.

The suspect pleaded not guilty to attempted manslaughter of Danish soldiers. His lawyer Birgitte Skjodt told broadcaster TV2 that she asked for the charges against her client to be withdrawn, as was done for the other three suspects.

Prosecutor Karen Moestrup Jensen for Denmark's Special Crime Unit said the investigation into the incident would continue.

Denmark deployed the frigate to the Gulf of Guinea to protect shipping amid heightened security risks from pirates. The waters have been a piracy hot spot for years, but incidents have decreased since national authorities stepped up security efforts aided by foreign naval ships.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean

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