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Africa
Somali pirate gets 33 years in jail
Judge cites need for deterrence in issuing the long prison sentence to teenager who attacked a US-flagged ship in 2009.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2011 18:15 GMT
The hijacking of ships near the coast of Somalia has cost the shipping industry millions of dollars [EPA]

A teenage Somali pirate who attacked a US-flagged ship in 2009 has been sentenced to more than 33 years in prison.

Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse was charged with kidnapping, hijacking and hostage-taking for his role in the seizure of the Maersk Alabama container ship and two other vessels in the Indian Ocean.

Federal Judge Loretta Preska on Wednesday cited the need for deterrence in issuing the sentence of 33 years and nine months. Muse's lawyers had asked for the minimum term, 27 years.

Muse - the sole surviving pirate after others were killed by US Navy marksmen - was extradited to the US following the April 2009 attack in which kidnapped Captain Richard Phillips was rescued while three captors around him were shot dead by sailors on another vessel.

Prosecutors described Muse as a hardened pirate leader who displayed a cruel streak when he pretended to shoot captives.

Muse's lawyers have argued he was only in his mid-teens at the time of the crime. However, a judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence of Muse being at least 18 and that he could be tried as an adult.

'Grew up in poverty'

"Muse's attorneys had tried to argue that he should get a more lenient sentence, saying he was very young when the crime occurred, and also that he grew up in terrible conditions, in extreme poverty," Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the court, said.

"Muse himself addressed the court, apologised for his actions and said that he had been led astray by certain people who were smarter than him and more powerful than him."

In court, Maersk Alabama crew member Collin Wright described Muse as the leader and said it had been "a very scary experience." Wright called for "the heaviest sentence possible."

US prosecutor Preet Bharara said: "For five days that must have seemed like an eternity to his victims, Abduwali Abukhadir Muse terrorised the captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama. Now he will pay for those five days and the events leading up to them."

The hijacking of ships near the coast of Somalia has cost the shipping industry millions of dollars. 

Pirates have continued to attack foreign ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, defying an armada of warships trying to protect the key maritime route.

The fight against piracy has been hampered by legal ambiguities over the appropriate venue to prosecute captured suspects. A UN envoy this month proposed special courts be set up rapidly in the Somali enclaves of Somaliland and Puntland, and in Tanzania, to try captured pirates.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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