The High Court has upheld a jail term handed down to ten pirates who hijacked an Indian vessel three years ago.
High Court judge Justice Festus Azangalala in his ruling, the first one from a Kenyan court in relation to a piracy offence, dismissed the appeal saying the seven year sentence cannot be described as harsh and that the grounds of appeal also lacked merit.
The ten: Hassan Muhamud Ahmed, Diwan Maalim Abdullah, Abdikadir Labhale Warsame, Hussein Noor Ali, Liban Abdi Ali, Muktah Mohammed Hassan, Mohammed Ali Farah, Mohammed Abdi Fitah, Mohamud Mohamed Jama and Aweh Mohamed Hassan were first convicted by a Mombasa chief magistrate court.
The ten captured the vessel Safina Al Bisarat-MNV 723 on January 16, 2006 on the Indian Ocean's high seas.
Magistrate T B Jaden found them guilty of hijacking the vessel and demanding a ransom of US$ 50,000 (Sh3.9million).
They were arrested when American navy officers intercepted and placed them under their custody.
But later they were flown back to Mombasa to face charges of piracy.
Aggrieved by the decision to convict them, the ten filed an appeal challenging the sentence saying the magistrate who found them guilty erred in law.
Firstly the magistrate, they said, lacked jurisdiction to try their case.
This is because, according to them, the offence took place miles away from Kenyan coast and therefore the magistrate could not purport to act on their matter and commit them to jail under Kenyan law.
The other side of their argument is that none of them is Kenyan and therefore could not be tried under Kenyan law.
However, the law allows trial of any foreigner who commits any criminal offence while within Kenyan jurisdiction.
Since they were first offenders, they argued, the seven year sentence was excessive.
The State Law Office, under Attorney General Amos Wako, opposed the appeal saying the offence of piracy existed and was punishable under the penal code.
Secondly, the AG said it mattered not whether the ten were Kenyan or that the offence was committed far away from Kenyan coast.
In dismissing the appeal, the judge said that it is clear piracy, war crimes and crimes against humanity are crimes susceptible to universal jurisdiction under international law.