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Jail terms urged for Somali pirates on trial in France

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Prosecutors called Friday for jail terms of 10 to 12 years for three Somali pirates on trial for the 2009 hijacking of a French yacht that led to the death of its skipper.

The three pirates have asked for leniency, saying they were forced into piracy by lives of abject poverty.

French troops stormed the Tanit sailboat in April 2009 and captured the trio during a bid to free Florent Lemacon, his wife, their three-year-old son and two others.

French commandos killed two pirates but also accidentally shot dead Florent Lemacon during the operation.

The three accused -- Mohamed Mahamud, Abdelkader Osman Ali and Mahamud Abdi Mohamed, aged between 26 and 31 -- have been on trial since Monday.

They are facing up to life in prison and the court is expected to rule on the case late on Friday.

During the trial, the three accused had said they turned to piracy out of desperation and expressed regret at their actions.

A lawyer for the survivors, Arnaud Colon de Franciosi, said they were not looking "for vengeance" but that the accused be "held responsible" for their acts.

The families have not criticised soldiers involved in the raid, but have accused the French government of authorising the "dangerous operation" without enough regard for the hostages.

The Lemacons left the northwestern French port of Vannes in 2008 for a journey to Zanzibar. They were taken hostage on April 6, 2009 off the Somali coast.

France has taken a tough line on pirates caught by its forces in the waters off east Africa, where dozens of mainly merchant vessels have been seized and held for ransom in recent years.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131018/jail-terms-urged-somali-pirates-trial-france