Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Friday, 6 November 2009

Spain resists deal with pirates

One of Somali captives held in Spain, 12 Oct 09
A Spanish frigate captured two Somalis after they left the hijacked Alakrana

Spain says it will not negotiate over two Somalis held on piracy charges, despite pleas from the relatives of Spaniards held hostage in Somalia.

"The situation is not negotiable," Spain's Deputy Defence Minister Constantino Mendez said.

Somali pirates have threatened to kill three crew members from the Spanish trawler Alakrana unless Spain frees the two captive Somalis, reports say.

The sailors' families urged Spain to do so, to get the ship and its crew freed.

In all, more than 30 sailors from various countries are reported to be held by the pirates - all but three of them still aboard the Alakrana, a tuna ship hijacked in the Indian Ocean on 2 October.

Three were taken ashore on Thursday and the pirates threatened to kill them within three days unless Spain released the two Somali prisoners, the Alakrana's captain told Spanish media by phone.

Basque tuna fishing boat, Alakrana
The Alakrana was hijacked on 2 October in the Indian Ocean

A Spanish frigate captured the two Somalis after they left the hijacked Alakrana.

Mr Mendez appeared to leave open the possibility of transferring the two to another jurisdiction, while ruling out releasing them.

"One can discuss issues of jurisdiction at length. They have many angles and the law is not mathematics," he said.

"We shouldn't rule anything out," he added, implying that a military operation to free the crew was also possible, though the families have urged Spain to avoid that. Two frigates are reported to be watching the Alakrana.

A Spanish judge has charged the two Somalis with illegal detention, criminal association and armed robbery.

The Alakrana is moored off the Somali port town of Harardere, the hub of piracy in the region.

The families have called a "solidarity" meeting for Saturday in Bermeo, in the Basque Country, to put pressure on the Spanish government.

The Basque regional leader (lehendakari), Patxi Lopez, called on Madrid to study the possibility of handing over the two Somalis to judicial authorities in Somalia or neighbouring Kenya.

Last year, the crew of another Spanish boat was freed by pirates in the same area after a ransom of a reported $1.2m (£750,000) was paid, according to Somali officials.

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