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Accused Somali pirates on trial in France

By Saskya Vandoorne
updated 2:03 PM EST, Tue November 15, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • French special forces freed the couple held hostage by pirates in 2008
  • The six alleged pirates face 30 years in prison if convicted
  • The number of pirate attacks has been increasing in the past few years, IMB says

Paris (CNN) -- Six alleged Somali pirates went on trial Tuesday in Paris for hijacking a yacht and taking a French couple hostage off the coast of Somalia in 2008.

The six Somali men, now between the ages of 21 and 35, are accused of seizing the Carré-d'As IV in the Gulf of Aden and holding Jean-Yves Delanne and his wife, Bernadette Bignon, for two weeks. The men allegedly demanded a ransom of $2 million for the release of the couple.

The pirates were arrested and brought to France after French special forces boarded the yacht and rescued the couple September 16, 2008.

The group faces charges of hijacking, kidnapping and armed robbery, according to a court spokeswoman.

The trial -- the first of suspected Somali pirates in France -- is closed to the public and is being held in a juvenile court, since one of the six was 18 years old at the time of the hijacking.

The men face sentences of up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

The trial is expected to last until December 2.

As of mid-November, 11 vessels and 194 hostages are currently being held by pirates, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Incidents of piracy have been on the rise in the past few years, especially along the largely lawless coast of Somalia.

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