Court: Spain paid pirates ransom to free boat

A Spanish court sentenced two Somalis to 439 years in jail each for the 2009 hijacking of a Spanish fishing boat in the Indian Ocean and said government-linked bodies paid a ransom to secure the release of the vessel and its crew.

But Spain's Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez quickly contradicted the court and denied that government paid to secure the release of the ship named the Alakrana.

The tuna fishing boat with a 36-member crew was seized off Somalia in October 2009 and held for 47 days. A reported $3.3 million ransom was paid. Spain says it does not pay ransom, but in the Alakrana case, the government said the day of the ship's release that it did what it had to do. It did not elaborate.

Spanish commandos captured two men as they sailed away from the boat during the hijacking drama and they were brought to Madrid for trial. The National Court identified them as Cabdiweli Cabdullahi and Raageggesey Hassan Aji.

Jimenez told reporters Tuesday "the government did not pay ransom in the Alakrana case" and insisted this is what officials had said all along.

However, the 50-page court verdict says the trial "had shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was not the ship's owner but public organizations linked to the Spanish government which paid for the release of the crew and the ship."