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Five pirates stand trial in the Netherlands

Dutch naval forces conduct anti-piracy drills in the Indian Ocean last year.
Dutch naval forces conduct anti-piracy drills in the Indian Ocean last year.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trial of the five Somali men thought to be first of its kind in Europe
  • The five captured by Dutch Navy after attacking a cargo ship in Gulf of Aden
  • Official: If convicted the maximum sentence will be 9 to 12 years
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(CNN) -- Five suspected pirates went on trial Tuesday in the Netherlands in what is thought to be the first trial in Europe of pirate suspects.

The trial of the five Somali men opened in Rotterdam District Court and is expected to last five days, said Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for Netherlands National Prosecutor's Office.

The five were captured by the Dutch Navy in January 2009 in the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, after a cargo ship with Dutch Antilles flag was attacked, de Bruin said.

"The ship of the pirates was destroyed by the Danish Navy, and the pirates were captured and handed to the Dutch authority. They're being tried for sea robbery, and if convicted the maximum sentence will be 9 to 12 years," he said.

The men are Ahmed Yusuf Farah, 25, Jama Mohamed Samatar, 45, Abdirisaq Abdulahi Hirsi, 33, Sayid Ali Garaar, 39, and Osman Musse Farah, 32, he said.

A different suspected Somali pirate is awaiting sentencing in the United States, where he pleaded guilty earlier this month to hijacking and kidnapping.

Prosecutors say Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse led an attack on a U.S.-flagged vessel, the Maersk Alabama, off the coast of Africa last year.

He pleaded guilty May 19 in a New York federal court to felony counts of hijacking maritime vessels, kidnapping and hostage taking, for his role in the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean on April 8, 2009.

Muse faces a maximum sentence of almost 34 years behind bars when he is sentenced October 19.

The suspects being tried in the Netherlands spent four weeks aboard the Danish navy ship after their capture before being taken to the Netherlands, the spokesman said.

They were held in pre-trial custody while the court interviewed witnesses from the Danish Navy and seamen on the Dutch Antilles cargo ship that was under attack, he said.

Five Dutch defense lawyers are representing the suspects, he said. He did not know what plea, if any, the suspects had entered.

Germany will soon try 10 suspected pirates who were captured in the Gulf of Aden earlier this year.

They were arrested after their attempt to board a German cargo vessel, but the Danish Navy ended the hijacking and handed them over to the Dutch authorities, de Bruin said.

They have since been held in the Netherlands, and Germany requested their extradition about two months ago.

CNN's Eileen Hsieh contributed to this report.