TALLINN - A court in northern Russia has convicted six people for the hijacking of the cargo ship Arctic Sea, whose mysterious disappearance sparked a global search, reports BBC. The men - a Russian, a Latvian and an Estonian, as well as three others described as stateless - were given sentences ranging from seven to 12 years.
The freighter left Finland in July 2009 and disappeared after passing through the English Channel. The Russian navy said it was eventually found off the Cape Verde islands.
The Maltese-flagged ship’s purported destination had been thousands of miles away, in Algeria. It was supposedly carrying timber but its disappearance led to speculation that it was smuggling illicit weapons, possibly Russian missiles destined for Syria or Iran. There were reports that Israel had warned Moscow that it was aware the ship was carrying S-300 surface-to-air missiles.
Three other men have already been imprisoned in connection with the hijacking and Russian authorities say everyone involved has now been convicted.
While the court in Archangelsk gave jail terms to all six of the men for piracy and kidnapping, one of the accused, Yevgeny Mironov, was sentenced to seven years hard labor. Russian media reported that his lawyer was planning an appeal.
According to Russian investigators, the men had made their plans to attack cargo ships from the Estonian capital, Tallinn.
Crew members reported the Arctic Sea had been boarded on July 24, close to two Swedish islands, by men wearing police uniforms. Although radio contact with the ship was lost after it sailed between Britain and France, it is understood that several countries continued to track its progress as it headed towards Cape Verde, off the West African coast.