[QODLink]
Americas
Pirates face life sentence in US
Five Somali men face life in jail after being convicted over an attack on a navy ship off the Somali coast.
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2010 21:22 GMT
Somali pirates have broadened their attacks in recent months, targeting military, private and cargo ships [AFP]

Five Somali men accused of attacking a US navy ship off Africa's coast have been convicted on federal piracy charges, in what experts said was the first trial of its kind in more than a century.

The five men stood silently as the verdict was read on Monday in a US district court in Norfolk, Virginia. They face mandatory life terms at a sentencing hearing set for March 14.

Prosecutors argued during trial that the five had confessed to attacking the USS Nicholas on April 1 after mistaking it for a merchant ship.

The Nicholas, based in Norfolk, was part of an international flotilla fighting piracy in the seas off Somalia.

Defence lawyers had argued the men were innocent fishermen who had been abducted by pirates and forced to fire their weapons at the ship.

Confession

John S Davis, an assistant US attorney, had argued that three of the men were in a skiff that opened fire on the Nicholas with assault rifles, then fled when sailors returned fire with machine guns.

In Depth

  Somali pirates free British couple
  Pirates' Haven
  The pirate kings of Puntland 
  Life inside the den of Somalia's pirates
  Lucrative raids lure Somali youth

Davis said all the men later confessed to the attack in remarks to an interpreter on board the ship. He said they expected to make anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 from the ransom, a comparatively small sum.

Somali pirates recently received a record $9.5m for the release of a South Korean oil tanker and its crew. And as much as $1m was paid for the release of British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler.

Defence attorneys said it is not uncommon in virtually lawless Somalia for pirates to capture fishermen and essentially enslave them, forcing them to either do their bidding or be killed. They said that is what happened to their clients.

The attorneys argued that the men - Gabul Abdullah Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher, Abdi Mohammed Umar and Mohammed Modin Hasan - had actually hoped to be rescued.

They also questioned the validity of the confessions obtained by the navy's interpreter. The confessions were not videotaped.

Other countries, such as Germany, have recently held piracy trials, but legal and maritime scholars say one of the last in the US was in 1861 when 13 Southern privateers aboard the schooner Savannah were prosecuted in New York City.

The jury deadlocked and the men were later exchanged with the South.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Featured
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.