Five Somalis convicted in US of piracy - first in 190 years
A US federal jury on Wednesday convicted five Somalis of attacking a US Navy ship in the first piracy conviction in the United States in 190 years, the Justice Department said, DPA reported.
The five men face a mandatory life sentence at a hearing scheduled for March 14 in a federal courtroom in Norfolk, Virginia, where the nine-day trial took place, the Justice Department said.
"Modern-day pirates not only threaten human lives but also disrupt international commerce by extorting hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments," Neil H MacBride, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said.
"Today's conviction demonstrates that armed attacks on US-flagged vessels are crimes against the international community and that pirates will face severe consequences in US courts," he said.
The five men were taken into custody in April after allegedly firing on the USS Nicholas, a frigate-class ship involved in anti- piracy operations off the Somali coast. The Somalis argued in court that they were forced into piracy.
Prosectors alleged the men were found in possession of automatic weapons and a grenade launcher.
The five convicted men are: Mohammed Modin Hasan; Gabul Abdullahi Ali; Abdi Wali Dire; Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher; and Abdi Mohammed Umar. The jury convicted them of piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, assault and related charges.
International efforts to combat piracy have intensified as the problem has escalated in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden in recent years. The US Navy, as well as navies from NATO countries in addition to others in the region, have stepped up patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
Under international law, any country is allowed to try suspected pirates. Germany on Monday opened the trial of 10 suspected Somali pirates in Hamburg.
Worldwide measures to fight piracy on the high seas have resulted in the detention and conviction of more than 700 people in 12 countries, according to a United Nations report earlier this month.