A sessions court in Mumbai on Friday sentenced 60 Somali men to seven-year prison term for a piracy attack on a merchant vessel in 2011. It is the last case currently being heard by the Mumbai court involving Somali nationals apprehended in anti-piracy operations in 2011 by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard.

According to the prosecution, on March 12, 2011, the Southern Naval Command headquarters had apprised Navy officials on Indian naval warship INS Kalpeni of a pirate attack near Lakshwadeep Island in the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.

The pirate vessel was not displaying the mandatory Automatic Identification System. Subsequently, two small high speed boats were also seen departing from the pirated vessel, later identified as Vega-5.

The boats opened fire on Kalpeni and its officers. Subsequently, communication was made with the pirate vessel and they were ordered to surrender. The men on the pirate vessel retaliated with a message stating that if they are not left alone, they will kill hostages on the ship.

In retaliatory firing that followed, there was a large explosion on the pirate vessel after which the pirates began jumping out of it.

The rescue operation by the Navy led to a total of 74 persons being rescued, which included 13 persons who were the original crew of Vega-5 who were nationals of Indonesia and Mozambique. The men were eventually arrested by the Yellow Gate police station and booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Indian Arms Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

On the basis of the deposition of 19 witnesses in the case, the court on Friday found the men guilty under Sections, including 307 (attempt to murder), 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and other relevant sections of the UAPA.

The men were acquitted of charges, including 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 364A (kidnapping for ransom) IPC.

They were also found guilty under the Indian Arms Act for illegal possession of weapons including 11 AK-47 rifles with magazines, 10 AK-47 rifles without magazines, two rocket launchers, ten magazines of rocket launchers.

Judge J C Jagdale has directed the state to deport the accused to their native state, Somalia, after release from prison.

One among the 61 men who were arrested, died during the trial due to illness. The case against him was abated. As per a treaty signed between India and Somalia regarding mutual transfer of prisoners, the 118 Somali men convicted in four separate cases in all, will be deported to Somalia to complete the remainder of their terms. The men have already spent over six years in prison in Navi Mumbai.