Danish court convicts suspected pirate for attack on sailors

A Copenhagen court on Monday found a suspected Nigerian pirate guilty of endangering the lives of Danish navy sailors in a firefight in the Gulf of Guinea but did not punish him.

The Danish frigate Esbern Snare
The Danish frigate Esbern Snare pictured in 2018. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The Nigerian, who has not been identified, was arrested in November last year when the Danish frigate Esbern Snare was patrolling international waters off Nigeria to protect merchant ships.

Its sailors attempted to board a suspected pirate vessel from a helicopter and a firefight ensued.

The suspect received leg injuries and was brought to Denmark to receive medical care, the first time the Scandinavian country has transferred a piracy suspect to its territory.

He was put on trial after needing a leg ampution and had faced up to one and a half years in prison, but prosecutors did not charge him with piracy.

Three other suspects were detained after the fight but later released. Four others were killed and a fifth fell overboard, the Danish authorities said.

The prosecution did not accuse the defendant of firing on the Danish sailors but argued that as a member of the suspected pirate gang, he had “caused imminent danger to the lives of the Danish helicopter crew”.

Defence lawyer Jesper Storm Thygesen argued that his client should be acquitted because the Danish navy had fired first.

The court found the man guilty but ruled against handing down any punishment because of his health and his suspected accomplices had been released.

The individual will remain in custody until at least December 20th when the
deadline for appeal expires.

The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches 5,700 kilometres from Senegal to Angola, has been a troubled area for shipping companies.

In 2020, there were 115 skirmishes in the region, according to the Maritime Information Cooperation and Awareness Center.

That fell to 52 in 2021 and to 20 since the start of 2022.

READ ALSO: Denmark to commence trial of suspected pirate

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Denmark in talks with Israel to replace howitzers donated to Ukraine

After pledging all 19 of its French-made Caesar howitzers to Ukraine, Denmark is in talks with Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems for new mobile artillery to plug a "critical gap".

Denmark in talks with Israel to replace howitzers donated to Ukraine

The defence ministry said late Thursday that negotiations were on “with the manufacturer Elbit Systems for the delivery of ATMOS artillery pieces and PULS rocket launcher systems as soon as possible”.

The equipment could be delivered this year, the government said.

“The rocket launchers complement the new artillery systems,” the ministry said.

Denmark had ordered 15 mobile long-range howitzers from French company Nexter in 2017, and four more in 2019.

But deliveries have been delayed and only a few have arrived. All of them have been pledged to Ukraine.

The system can carry 36 155 mm shells and reach targets at distances of up to 40 kilometres (24 miles). ATMOS can fire six shots per minute and can be mounted on most off-road 8X8 trucks.

The next acquisitions are “important for Denmark’s defence and for Denmark to be able to meet its NATO commitments,” Defence Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said.

“The donation to Ukraine leaves a critical capability gap in defence,” he said.

According to Danish media, Nexter advised Denmark against changing suppliers, saying it could provide new artillery.

“Caesar has proven itself on the battlefield in Ukraine, Danish soldiers can use them and the parts are compatible with Danish military IT systems,” a spokesman for the group said.

The primary reason for the defence ministry’s choice of Elbit is that it can deliver the hardware much sooner that its competitor, media Altinget reports.

But the decision to purchase from the Israeli company could prove a controversial one, given that several international banks and pension funds — including some in Denmark — refuse to invest in the company on ethical grounds related to its supply of surveillance and other equipment for use in the West Bank, Altinget writes.