Madrid, November 7, 2009 — Spain said Friday it would
not free two captured pirates as demanded by fellow brigands who are
holding a Spanish trawler and 33 crew members off the coast of Somalia.
Three crewmen that had been removed from the vessel and taken to the
Somali mainland by hijackers to add pressure on Spain to repatriate the
arrested pirates were returned to the ship late Friday, Foreign Minister
Miguel Angel Moratinos said.
Moratinos said First Officer Patxi Valdes, ship's electrician Antonio
Manuel Perez and crewman Joaquin Fernandez had been returned to their
fishing boat safely.
"Somali authorities have offered all their support to the Spanish
government," Moratinos said.
The trawler's captain told Spanish media Thursday that the pirates on
board had threatened to start killing the hostages.
Deputy Defense Minister Constantino Mendez said Friday the two Somali
men were captured in connection with the hijacking of the
Spanish-registered tuna boat Alakrana on Oct. 2 in the Indian Ocean and
brought to Madrid.
He told Spanish National Radio: "The situation is not negotiable."
However, he seemed to leave open a possibility of transferring them to
the court system of another country.
Pirates holding the Alakrana took three crew members ashore to Somalia
on Thursday, the Defense Ministry said.
The wives of two crew members who spoke to their husbands Thursday said
the pirates are demanding the release of the two in custody in Madrid as
a condition for letting the ship and its crew go.
On Thursday night, the skipper of the Alakrana, Ricardo Blach, told
Spanish television the heavily armed pirates on board had threatened to
kill the three crew members taken ashore if there was no progress in
freeing the two men.
"They told us an hour ago that if there is no movement relating to those
who are in Spain, then they would begin by killing those three in three
days' time, and then they would take another three, and so on," Blach
Blach said around 30 pirates aboard the Alakrana consumed drugs, often
quarreled among themselves and were equipped with machine guns,
bazookas, grenade launchers and handguns. "If you say anything to them,
they put a pistol to your forehead," he said.
"This morning they took us all toward the bow of the ship and they began
shooting, aiming at the mast and not us people, but the ricochets could
have hit any of us," Blach said.
On Friday, relatives of the crew issued an urgent appeal for the Spanish
government to free the detained pirates. "Otherwise they will be
jeopardizing the lives of our loved ones," they said in a statement
released in the Basque town of Bermeo, where the Alakrana is based.
The company that owns the Alakrana, Echebastar Fleet, urged the
government to "facilitate the departure of the two Somalis detained in
Spain, taking urgent measures."
Mendez ruled out freeing the two. But when asked if they might be
transferred to an African country, similar to a case in May, he seemed
to suggest that was an option.
"One can discuss issues of jurisdiction at length. They have many angles
and law is not mathematics. Therefore, it is something that is open to
differing opinions," Mendez said.
In May, Spanish naval forces caught seven young pirates trying to hijack
a Panamanian-flagged ship in the Gulf of Aden. Spanish courts initially
considered bringing them to Madrid, but ultimately turned them over to
Kenya under an anti-piracy agreement with the European Union.
Associated Press writer Harold Heckle contributed to this report.
Source: The Associated Press