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Appeals Court Orders Released Somali Pirate Negotiator Back Into Custody

Somali pirate negotiator Ali Mohamed Ali scored a big victory last week when a U.S. District Court Judge ordered him released on bond subject to home detention pending trial, primarily due to the excessive length of his pretrial detention (28 months.) The Court's opinion is here.

The Government filed an emergency request for a stay pending appeal, which has been granted by the Appeals court.

PER CURIAM ORDER filed [1455209] granting motion to return appellee to custody [1455046-2]; The district court is directed to enter an order returning appellee immediately to the custody of the United States; Granting request to expedite briefing; Setting briefing schedule: Appellant’s Memorandum of Law and Fact due 09/09/2013. Appellee’s Memorandum of Law and Fact due on 09/12/2013.

Ali is now back in custody. Ali's case has been the subject of several appeals, including one over jurisdiction. He was assisting the victims of the pirated Danish ship and its owner by negotiating with the pirates for the release of hostages.

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Somali Pirates Get Life, Holdout Jurors Reject Death

A federal jury in Virginia has rejected the Government's request for the death penalty in the case of the three remaining Somali pirates charged with killing Americans on their sailboat 40 miles off the coast of Somalia.

Under federal law, a sentence to death must be unanimous. In this case, one juror held out for life on one defendant, while two jurors felt life was appropriate for the other two.

Originally, there were 19 pirates on board when the shootings occurred. [More...]

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More Somali Priates to Be Our "Guests" For Life

8 of the 15 men charged with piracy in the deaths of two American couples on the Quest vessel hijacked in the Gulf of Aden will plead guilty . At least one (and likely at least three) will be sentenced to life in prison.

The lawyer for one who is pleading to a mandatory life sentence says, ""My guy doesn't know who pulled the trigger....He was trying to resolve the problem." But absent the plea, the lawyer says, he could face a death penalty charge. [More...]

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Freed Suspected Somali Pirates Sue Denmark for Unlawful Detention

Last year, the Danish Navy thought a Somali boat was approaching the Ely Maersk, a Danish merchant vessel off the coast of Somalia, shot at it and arrested the occupants. They were brought to Denmark to face piracy charges. They were appointed counsel. The Danish Prosecutor For Special International Criminal Cases decided not to file charges and released the men back to Somalia.

The Danish counsel for the men has now sued for damages for unlawful detention and the destruction of their boat and property.

The Danish Navy's Esbern Snare has seized 200 suspected pirates, all of whom were later released. "Somali pirates are currently holding some 28 international vessels and 587 hostages."

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Va Judge Sentences Five Somali Pirates to Life

Last week, when writing about the new case filed in Virginia against a group of Somali pirates who are accused of killing two American couples after hijacking their boat, I quoted at length from pleadings in a 2010 Virginia case where the defendants, young Somali men convicted of pirating a ship in the Indian Ocean, were awaiting sentencing.

Five defendants, all in their young 20's, all facing life sentences. $27,000 per year for 40 years for 5 defendants equals - $5,400,000.00. And that's just the cost of housing them. It doesn't include the cost of prosecution or defense or their medical care while in prison.

Now we have a new Norfolk case with 14 young Somali defendants, captured in the Indian Ocean, and flown to the U.S. for criminal prosecution. With the jurisdictional and venue issues already decided against them in earlier cases, with no local interpreters and no local Somali population to sit on their jury, their fate will probably be the same. $27,000 per year for 40 years for 14 defendants equals $15,120,000. $20 million just to warehouse the defendants in two cases.

Monday, the five were sentenced to life in prison. These sentences aren't going to stop piracy. They do, however, cost the U.S. a huge amount of money that could better be spent elsewhere.

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The Cost of the Somali Pirate Cases

The Government unsealed an Indictment today against 14 young Somalis. All 14 are charged with piracy and other major crimes in federal court in Norfolk, VA (Eastern District of Virginia.) If convicted on the first piracy count, the sentence is mandatory life in prison. There is no parole. They leave prison when they die. The FBI press release is here.

All 14 men were charged with piracy, which carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison. In addition, the indictment also charges them with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, and the use of a destructive device during a crime of violence. The latter charge carries a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, which would run consecutive to all other charges.

[More..]

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Somali Pirates Kill Four Americans

Sad news from the Indian Ocean. The pirates that seized the Quest on Friday and took four Americans hostage, owners Scott and Jean Adams and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, have shot and killed all four.

The US central command said that negotiations were under way with the pirates when the US forces heard gunfire, boarded the yacht and found the four American bodies.

"As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors," general James Mattis of US central command said in a statement.

The U.S. had sent four navy warships, including an aircraft carrier, to the scene. After boarding the ship, two pirates were killed and 15 have been detained. The Adams had been sailing around the world on the ship since 2004. What a tragic way for their journey to end.

The New York Times has more details here, and says 13 pirates have been detained. Some background on Somali pirates is here and here.

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Young Somali Pirate Sentenced to 34 Years

Abdulwali Muse, the young Somali pirate, was sentenced in federal court today to 34 years in prison.

Muse pleaded guilty last May. As part of the agreement, prosecutors said they would seek a sentence of at least 27 years but no more than 33 years and 9 months. Today they asked for the maximum.

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Young Somali Pirate Pleads Not Guilty, Outlines Defense

Abduwali Muse, the young, 5'2" Somali pirate, was indicted by a federal grand jury this week. The charges include piracy and violence against maritime navigation. (Indictment available here (pdf.) Bloomberg reports that if convicted, he faces mandatory life in prison. Today, he pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Muse is not faring well at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan. He's being held in isolation and his lawyers have asked for medical aid. They say he's only been allowed a one minute phone call to his mother in Somalia. He requires surgery on his hand and has another undisclosed medical condition. According to one of his lawyers: [More...]

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Somali Pirate to be Charged as Adult, Faces Life

Here is the complaint (pdf) filed against Abduwali Abukhadir Muse, the accused teen-aged Somali pirate. The primary charge is Piracy Under the Law of Nations which carries mandatory life...no parole.

The Government now says he was the ringleader of the pirate attack. Did Captain Phillips tell them that? How else would they prove that when the others are dead? [Added: Answer is it came from interviews with the Captain and other crew members.]

He cried in court today. He is being represented by the Federal Defenders office in New York. The Court ruled him to be an adult today even though his father says he's 15 years old. [More...]

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Somali Pirate Arrives in New York

Abduhl Wali-i-Musi, the sole surviving pirate of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama and kidnapping of Captain Richard Phillips has arrived in New York. He will be arraigned today in federal court.

Omar Jamal, Director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, a group that helps Somali immigrants with legal and social issues, said Musi's family has asked his organization to assist in his defense.

The AP has details on his background...he's called "Muse" and he could be 16 or 18. He wasn't born in a hospital and Somalis don't keep birth records. [More...]

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Captured Somali Pirate En Route to New York to Face Charges

Update: Musi's mother was interviewed by the AP and is pleading for his release. She says he is 16 and was "swept up by "gangsters with money."
His mother is calling on President Barack Obama to pardon him or allow her to attend his trial.

If he needs character witnesses or mitigation witnesses, since he's indigent, the government will have to pay their travel expenses here. This sure is going to be an expensive trial for the U.S.

Update: Here's a good article on why Kenya was thought to be the place to try them. The US and EU recently signed agreeements with Kenya to try pirates. But, maybe there should be a special piracy tribunal, like the Hague. That would be expensive too. A former U.N. prosecutor who helped set up a special tribunal for Sierra Leone and indicted ousted Liberian President Charles Taylor says: [More...]

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Somali Pirates Ramp Up Hijackings

Freed hostage Captain Richard Phillips was supposed to reunite with his crew today in Mombassa. They were scheduled to fly back to the U.S. together. The plan fell apart because Captain Phillips was on the U.S.S. Bainbridge which had to attend to yesterday's failed pirate attempt to take the Liberty Sun, another U.S. ship. While the pirates failed, they caused some damage by throwing rocket grenades at the ship.

France captured 11 pirates yesterday by preempting an attack on a Liberian ship and raiding the pirates' boat before they could launch their attack. Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke yesterday about what's needed: Fewer expensive Navy ships. [More...]

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DOJ to Charge Captured Somali Pirate in New York or DC

How absurd is this? The Department of Justice is going to prosecute the captured Somali pirate in federal court in New York or Washington.

Can we think of any more ways to waste money? On Saturday, a judge in Somalia's State of Puntland handed down 20 year sentences to ten pirates captured in another hijacking last October. In September, other pirates were sentenced to 15 years. Swift and certain justice, Somali style.

The pirate will come here, be declared indigent so taxpayers will fund both his prosecution and the defense, and the case will take years to wind through the courts on jurisdictional issues alone.

Deterrence? What pirate isn't going to think 20 years in a U.S. prison is a cakewalk compared to the conditions in a prison in Somalia or Kenya?

Another case of retribution gone wild.

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Captain Phillips Freed, Three Pirates Killed

Hooray for the Captain! He jumped overboard and was rescued. Navy Seals shot and killed three of the pirates. The fourth was taken into custody.

Capt. Richard Phillips was helped out of the water off the Somali coast and is uninjured and in good condition, the official said. He was taken aboard the USS Bainbridge, a nearby naval warship.

It's regrettable there was any loss of life but the Captain had to be freed.

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