19 May Somali “Pirate” Pleads Guilty and Avoids Life Sentence
The young Somali captured last year in dramatic U.S. Navy operation has plea bargained himself into a minimum 27 year sentence.
A Somali man has pleaded guilty in New York’s court to seizing a US ship and kidnapping its captain last year.
Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse now faces a minimum of 27 years in prison. He is expected to be sentenced in October.
Muse is the only surviving attacker on the Maersk Alabama merchant ship off Somalia’s coast in April 2009.
A couple of observations about this result, which should caution folks excited about the effectiveness of U.S. federal courts in combatting piracy. (It appears the defendant avoided a piracy conviction and settled for a lesser charge).
1) Timing: Muse was captured in March 2009 and charged with, among other things, “piracy as defined in the law of nations,” under 18 U.S.C. 1651. It has taken 13 months to get a plea bargain on a lesser charge??? If we were just going to plea bargain him, why did it take so long?
2) Evidence: The logistics of finding translators, and dealing with classified evidence, is another reason these trials are going to take a fair amount of time. Case in point: the federal trial in Norfolk, Va of another group of Somali pirates was recently delayed for five months just so the parties could sort through classified evidence and find translators.
I don’t say federal courts are doing a bad job here. But the logistical difficulties are going to make this a very weak and ineffective deterrent to further piracy. As Anne Applebaum notes, the other option was tried by the Russians recently when they “released” a group of Somali pirates on a dinghy 350 miles from shore without an navigation equipment. The 21st century version of “walking the plank”?