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Americas

Somali pirate tried in the US faces life sentence

Video by Gulliver CRAGG , Pauline GODART

Latest update : 2009-04-22

A teenage Somali pirate captured after a thwarted hijacking of a US container ship will be tried as an adult in a US court and faces a mandatory life sentence. His next court appearance is scheduled on May 21.

REUTERS - Somali teenager accused of holding hostage a U.S. ship captain in the Indian Ocean after an attempted hijacking will be tried as an adult in New York on piracy charges, a U.S. judge ruled on Tuesday.

Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, the sole surviving accused pirate from the foiled bid to hijack huge U.S. container ship the Maersk Alabama earlier this month, was put in custody until his next court appearance on May 21.

Muse is charged with piracy, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, conspiracy to commit hostage taking and related firearms offenses. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

The captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, was held hostage on a lifeboat for several days after he volunteered to go with the pirates in exchange for the crew. He was rescued when U.S. Navy snipers killed three pirates and captured Muse.

Muse appeared at a hearing in Manhattan federal court after being brought to New York by U.S. authorities late on Monday. Parts of the hearing were closed to the public due to questions about whether Muse was less than 18 years old.

Defense attorney Philip Weinstein said he spoke to Muse's father in Somalia, who said his son is 15 years old but prosecutors said Muse told the FBI he was over 18.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck eventually ruled Muse is 18 years old.

Muse at one point cried out and appeared to wipe away a tear. When told by the judge he would be represented by lawyers free of charge, he said through a Somali translator, "I understand. I don't have any money."

Photographs of Muse arriving on Monday showed him smiling broadly, while local media reported he did not speak English and seemed unaware of the gravity of his situation.

The teenager, wearing a blue prison jumpsuit over a red T-shirt, was not required to appear in court but his lawyers said they wanted him to "so that he would be able to understand what was happening and have some trust in us."

Heavily armed pirates from lawless Somalia have been striking vessels in busy Indian Ocean shipping lanes and in the Gulf of Aden, capturing dozens of vessels, taking hundreds of hostages and making off with millions of dollars in ransoms.
 

Date created : 2009-04-21

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