Nine pirates who attempted to hijack a ship in Togolese waters in May 2019 have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 20 years during a trial at a Lome court.
It was the first time pirates have been tried in Togo, one of the West African countries with coastline on the Gulf of Guinea, a major trading route which now accounts for most of the world's abductions of commercial crew by pirates.
A total of 10 pirates, including seven Nigerians, two Togolese and one Ghanaian, went on trial for "maritime piracy, wilful violence and groups of criminals".
The Ghanian, who is on the run and facing an international arrest warrant, was sentenced on Monday night to 20 years in prison. One Togolese national was acquitted while the other eight pirates were given sentences from 12 to 15 years.
The group were accused of attacking the tanker G-DONA 1 during the night of May 11, 2019.
"People should understand that piracy and armed robbery at sea will be punished. And for these sea offenses, we will be uncompromising," prosecutor Kodjo Gnambi Garba told reporters.
Pirate attacks in the Gulf are mainly carried out by gangs from southeastern Nigeria who speed out in boats to raid commercial vessels offshore to kidnap their crew for ransom.
The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches along 5,700 kilometres of coastline, accounted for 130 of the 135 kidnappings of seafarers recorded worldwide last year, according to a recent report by the International Maritime Bureau.
A group of shippers and trade companies in the international maritime sector in May signed a declaration calling for the creation of a coalition to put an end to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.