updated 10/26/2006 12:32:12 PM ET 2006-10-26T16:32:12

Ten Somalis detained by the U.S. Navy off the coast of Somalia were found guilty of piracy by a Kenyan court on Thursday.

U.S. sailors boarded a ship in January in waters off the Somali capital Mogadishu that was carrying the 10 Somalis along with 16 Indians, believed to be hostages.

The 10 Somalis denied piracy after being handed to authorities in neighboring Kenya. They said they were stranded fisherman who boarded the Indian-owned ship seeking refuge.

“The suspects are found guilty of the charge of piracy,” Mombasa Resident Magistrate Beatrice Jaden said.

“The evidence was corroborative and I believe the American version of the testimony and I do not believe the claim that the 10 suspects were fishermen is true.”

The men are expected to be sentenced early next month. Their lawyers said they would appeal against Thursday’s conviction which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Piracy is endemic off Somalia’s coastline although increased foreign patrols and an anti-piracy stance by Mogadishu’s powerful Islamists, who control a swathe of the south, have stemmed attacks.

In February, lawyers for the Somalis had questioned Kenya’s right to try them because United States forces had seized them in international waters.

“The Americans, while testifying, concurred they found fishing equipment inside the boat ... Where did the fishing equipment come from if the court is dismissing that they were fishermen?” said Hassan Abdi, one of three defense lawyers.

Washington has praised Kenya for taking custody of the suspects.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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