Apologies to French couple

Five Somali men have been sent to prison on charges relating to the pirating of a French yacht in the Gulf of Aden three years ago.

The men, aged from 20 to 36, were jailed on Wednesday for terms of between four and eight years for hijacking, kidnap and armed robbery. A sixth man was acquitted having convinced the court he was merely a fisherman caught up in the event.

The Somalis had attacked the yacht, Carre d’As, in September 2008 and demanded a multi-million dollar ransom to release its owners, Jean-Yves and Bernadette Delanne.

The French couple, who were en route to Australia when they were captured, were released in a military operation a fortnight later.

One suspect escaped and another was killed when the yacht was stormed by French Navy commandos.

The six remaining were transported to France for investigation and subsequent prosecution.

The defendants apologised to the couple and asked the court for leniency, stressing their poverty and that they had not harmed their hostages. They could have received maximum 16 year terms.

The kidnapped couple, Jean-Yves and Bernadette Delanne, wished their captors, as they were sent down, ‘Good luck’.

Photo: Somali suspects (U.S. Navy/Jason R. Zalasky)