Shabbily dressed and solemn, 18 Somali men nabbed at sea and hauled ashore by European navies crowded into a Mombasa courthouse Thursday to face piracy charges that could put them behind bars for life.
Kenya appeared to be ramping up prosecutions amid talk of establishing an international piracy tribunal in the country that borders Somalia, the lawless epicenter of a flourishing pirate industry off the Horn of Africa.
It was the first court appearance for the men tracked down by French commandos and seized April 14 in a pre-dawn raid as they ate breakfast in their skiffs in waters off Somalia.
Magistrate Catherine Mwangi adjourned their case until a bail hearing May 27. They will remain in a Mombasa jail until then. She also demanded that officials give the men fresh clothing for their bail hearing.
“I’m giving you an order that these people be dressed properly,” Mwangi told court officials.
Measure would expand army’s role
A bill that would let Mexico declare temporary states of emergency and expand the army’s power in a bloody fight against powerful drug gangs drew immediate fire Thursday from human rights activists who say soldiers should not be doing the job of police.
The measure was submitted to Congress late Wednesday.
President Felipe Calderon’s government has already dispatched 45,000 troops to drug-plagued areas where cartel battles have cost more than 10,700 lives since Calderon took office in December 2006.
By law, soldiers are limited to playing a support role for police.
The proposal would officially place army troops at the head of anti-crime efforts in some areas – formalizing the reality that in some places the military has effectively replaced weak or corrupt local forces.
From wire reports