Denmark to commence trial of suspected pirate

The trial of a suspected Nigerian pirate charged with endangering Danish soldiers sailing in the international waters of the Gulf of Guinea opened on Monday in a Copenhagen court.

Denmark to commence trial of suspected pirate
Danish frigate Esbern Snare, which was involved in a skirmish with suspected pirates in November 2021. File photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The man, who had to have his leg amputated because of the severity of the wounds he sustained in a gunfight with the Danish navy, has pleaded not guilty.

He faces up to one and a half years in prison if convicted.

The charges against the defendant relate to an incident on November 24th, 2021, when the Danish naval frigate Esbern Snare was patrolling international waters off the coast of Nigeria to protect merchant ships.

When the Danish sailors attempted to board a pirate vessel, a firefight ensued.

Danish prosecutors accuse the pirates of firing first.

At 6.57pm, a burst of gunfire was fired at the frigate’s helicopter. Another shot was fired 10 minutes later.

“The life of the personnel on board the helicopter was endangered,” according to the charge sheet.

The prosecution does not allege the defendant fired on the Danish sailors but has charged him, as a member of the alleged pirate gang, with “causing imminent danger to the lives of the Danish helicopter crew”.

At the opening of the trial, defence lawyer Jesper Storm Thygesen said his client should be acquitted, arguing that the Danish navy had fired first, Danish media reported.

Storm Thygesen also noted that the original charges against his client — piracy and attempted murder — had been downgraded.

“Now we have an indictment in which the charge has been reduced. This is of course because the prosecution has decided that it cannot prove attempted murder,” he told the court, according to broadcaster TV2.

The Nigerian was moved to Denmark because of his health — the first time the Scandinavian country has transferred a piracy suspect to its territory. It has no extradition agreement with the countries along the Gulf of Guinea coast.

Another three suspected pirates were detained after the gunfight but later released. Four others were killed during the clash and a fifth fell overboard, the Danish authorities said.

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 recalls frigate from Africa over Ukraine crisis

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Denmark ‘considering’ new military donations to Ukraine

Danish Minister of Defence Jakob Ellemann-Jensen has not ruled out additional donations of military equipment to Ukraine after the Nordic country recently agreed to send artillery pieces to Kyiv.

Denmark 'considering' new military donations to Ukraine

Ellemann-Jensen stated in an email to news wire Ritzau that further donations could come into play following a visit to Black Sea city Mykolaiv earlier this week.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen also took part in the visit to Mykolaiv, where Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky was present.

“Denmark has just made a large donation to Ukraine in the form of all of the army’s artillery. Something the Ukrainians themselves requested, and that we can be proud of,” Ellemann-Jensen wrote.

“Having said that, there is no doubt there will be a need for more Danish support for Ukraine,” he said.

READ ALSO: Denmark in talks with Israel to replace howitzers donated to Ukraine

“Denmark is continuously considering donations of military material as well as financing and other material that can support Ukraine’s battle against Russia,” he said.

Ellemann-Jensen has previously said that Denmark is not currently planning to send Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine. That remains the minister’s position, Ritzau writes.

In his daily evening speech to Ukraine following the Danish visit to Mykolaiv, Zelensky suggested that Copenhagen could be willing to send tanks.

“I naturally thanked Denmark for its military support, for significantly strengthening our artillery and for its willingness to join the tank coalition,” Zelensky said.

“We talked about tanks today, and I don’t want to go into detail about it, but I really think that in the near future we can get some equipment one way or another,” he added. 

Frederiksen said following the visit that tanks had been discussed but did not make any promises regarding Danish tanks.

Denmark said in January that it would donate 19 French-made Caesar howitzers to Ukraine, including some still on order.