Five Somali men appeared in a Dutch court May 25 charged with the attempted hijacking of a merchant ship in Europe's first trial of suspected Somali pirates.
The men, aged 25 to 45, were captured on Jan. 2, 2009 after attacking a Dutch vessel, the Samanyolu, in the Gulf of Aden with automatic weapons and rockets.
The crew held off the attackers with flares until a Danish navy frigate arrived and sank the pirates' boat.
The Somalis, who are being tried under a 17th century law against "sea robbery," face prison terms of between nine and 12 years if found guilty.
Defense lawyers are challenging the jurisdiction of the Rotterdam District Court in the case, arguing that the ship was registered in the Dutch Antilles, which has its own legal system.
The trial is expected to last five days and a verdict is due in mid-June.
Another group of Somalis is in a Dutch jail fighting extradition to Germany to answer charges of piracy.
-- Contact Bruce Barnard at firstname.lastname@example.org.