Malta: Three teens charged over hijacking refugee ship

Three teens have been charged in Malta for their alleged role in hijacking of a merchant ship that had rescued them from off the coast of Libya. They have been charged with an act of terrorism. The teens had been among the 108 refugees and other asylum-seekers who had been rescued by the El Hiblu 1 earlier in the week. They were produced in front of the court in the Maltese capital, Valletta.

The teens as per the accusations had seized control of the tanker and had also used force against the crew to change the course of the ship towards Europe. As per the Maltese law, any person who is found guilty of unlawfully taking control of a ship is liable to punishment with prison terms between 7 and 30 years. The suspects have however pleaded not guilty  and have been placed in preventive detention till their trial is pending. The court at Valletta has identified one of the teen as Abdalla Bari, who is 19 years of age and hails from Guinea. The other two teens are a 15- year old boy also from Guinea and a 16-year old boy from Ivory Coast. The other two being minors so cannot be named. The latter two told the court that they are students of secondary school while Bari has told that he was a sociology student before he had left his country.

The captain of the ship, Nader el-Hiblu stated that it was on Tuesday when his ship was travelling to Libya from Turkey and a military aircraft had alerted him about a boat with people who needed help. The whereabouts of the aircraft were not sure. As all the refugees and migrants boarded the ship, the latter set course towards Libya. Latter is infamous as it has been stated by many aid groups that the refugees and other asylum seekers have to face trafficking, torture, rape etc. in Libya. It was then that many refugees realised that the ship was going to take them to the same country they had managed to leave and thus started to revolt and tried to commandeer the same thereby forcing the crew to take them towards Europe.

Captain has said that the refugees were highly panicky and did not want to return to Libya. They, thus attacked the cockpit, heavily beating on the doors and issued threats to smash the boat completely.

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