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By Raquel Castillo
MADRID (Reuters) - Two Somalis suspected of being part of a pirate gang which hijacked a Spanish fishing boat and its crew in the Indian Ocean could be tried in Spain within a month, judicial sources said on Monday.
Judge Santiago Pedraz charged Cabdullahi Cabduwily, known as Abdu Willy, and Rageggesey Hassan Aji, with armed robbery and the kidnapping of 36 crew members, a court document showed.
A charge of conspiracy was dropped, meaning the suspects could be deported if found guilty, since the remaining charges carry prison sentences of fewer than six years.
The presence of the suspected pirates in Spain has turned into a headache for the government since the gang holding the crew of the tuna boat Alakrana want the Somalis freed before they will release the Spanish crew, even if a ransom is paid.
Family members of the hijacked crew have criticised the decision to bring the Somalis to Spain after the Spanish navy captured them on October 2.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met relatives to update them on the negotiations amid allegations the government was mishandling the affair and that ministers were divided.
Earlier this month, the first mate of the Alakrana said he believed the pirates had won a promise to have the two suspects freed, however the government has said all options are being considered.
The suspects could be tried in Spain but serve any prison sentence in Somalia or a third country, media reports have said.
A multinational naval force is patrolling the shipping lanes off the Somali coast. However, the patrols only appear to have forced the pirates to extend their range and strike deeper into the Indian Ocean.
The international community is meanwhile struggling to effectively prosecute captured pirates, either because governments lack the jurisdiction or because they fear suspects could try to seek asylum in the country where they are tried.
(Reporting by Raquel Castillo, writing by Sarah Morris)

Reuters