Two men who attempted to hijack a Japanese tanker off the coast of Oman were jailed for 10 years by Tokyo District Court on Friday, a report said, in the first piracy prosecution in Japan.
The two were among four African men arrested in March 2011 over the attack in the Indian Ocean.
Men armed with submachine guns tried to seize the tanker, which was operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and had 24 crew members aboard, reports said.
“It was an organised and dangerous crime by men armed with guns who sought to demand a ransom,” presiding judge Katsunori Ohno said in his ruling, according to broadcaster NHK.
US Navy personnel captured the men and handed them over to Japan’s coastguard, which for the first time applied the nation’s new anti-piracy law to transport them to Tokyo to face trial.
The court used two sets of interpreters — one from Japanese to English and another from English to Somali.
The men were identified in court as Mohamed Urgus Adeysey and Abdinur Hussein Ali, and believed to be in their 20s or 30s, but reportedly said they were not certain of their own dates of birth.
Their lawyers have said they had difficulties communicating with their clients, who were apparently illiterate.
Although the two men pleaded guilty to their charges, one of their lawyers has previously told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that it was not clear whether the defendants understood the judicial system.
Defence lawyers had argued the prosecution should have been dropped because neither the place of the attack nor the tanker — which was registered in the Bahamas — were Japanese territory, previous reports said.
Two other men who were brought to Japan will go through a different trial process because they are believed to be juveniles under Japanese law.
After a spike at the start of the last decade, successful pirate attacks on commercial vessels sailing off the Horn of Africa have diminished, deterred by an international deployment of warships to patrol the coast.
Somali pirates have been tried in countries including the Netherlands and South Korea.