A Danish court has declined to sentence a Nigerian piracy suspect despite finding him guilty of endangering the lives of Danish marines.

Prosecutors had wanted a 12 to a 15-month jail term for Lucky Frances, 40, over his involvement in a fatal gun battle in the Gulf of Guinea in November 2021.

Frances was one of eight men in a dinghy approached by the frigate Esbern Snare after it was spotted acting suspiciously.

The Danish vessel fired warning shots, but the Nigerians fired back, prompting a fire fight that killed four of them.

Three others were released without charge. They were released from detention on the frigate and put to sea in a small dinghy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Frances lost a leg in the battle. He was taken to Denmark for prosecution in January after being treated at a hospital in Ghana.

“The court emphasised that the man, together with the other perpetrators, fulfilled all the signs of piracy and had to be described as a pirate group,” Copenhagen city court said in a statement.

But he has been exempted from any legal consequences due to his medical condition and the fact that charges against the other three suspected pirates had been dropped, his lawyer Jesper Storm Thygesen told Reuters.

Frances will remain in custody while both sides ponder an appeal, the lawyer added.

Nigeria makes ‘murder’ accusation

Nigeria’s foreign ministry had called for the case to be dropped and also wants to prosecute Danish forces for what it called “direct murder”.

Frances himself had told the court he was only in the boat because he wanted to experience the open sea.

He denied he and the others were pirates, claiming they were on their way to find a tanker that had to be guided to the coast with an oil cargo.

The defendant admitted that he had helped to steal the oil from pipelines in Nigeria and he said he had been promised $7,000 to be involved.