Accused Somali pirate indicted in New York court


A Somali teenager accused of holding hostage a US ship captain in the Indian Ocean after an attempted hijacking was indicted overnight on ten counts, including piracy and kidnapping, prosecutors said.

Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, the sole surviving accused pirate from the foiled bid to hijack huge US container ship the Maersk Alabama last month, will be arraigned at US District Court in Manhattan tomorrow, Reuters adds.

According to the indictment, Muse “threatened the captain of the ship with a firearm” and then, using a radio to communicate with US representatives, “threatened to kill the captain unless his demands were satisfied.”

Muse, who prosecutors said “conducted himself as the leader of the pirates,” is also charged with seizing a ship by force, possession of a machine gun and hostage taking.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Lawyers for Muse were not immediately available for comment, but have said they are investigating the possibility that Muse himself had been “kidnapped and taken hostage.”

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.

Meanwhile, the Associate Press reports from Rotterdam that a lawyer for one of five suspected Somali pirates on trial there Monday described his client as a modern-day Robin Hood driven by poverty to hijack ships.

Danish Navy sailors captured the men after a January 2 attack on the MV Samanyulo in the Gulf of Aden. The ship’s crew fended off the pirates with signal flares until the Danish naval ship came to the rescue and sank the pirate vessel.

The Netherlands agreed to prosecute the alleged pirates under a 17th-century law against “sea robbery” because the Samanyulo is registered in the Dutch Antilles.

Convicted pirates face a maximum sentence of nine years, while a convicted pirate captain can get up to 12 years.

Their trial is not expected to begin until later this year.

At a pre-trial hearing in a heavily guarded court in Rotterdam, lawyer Willem Jan Ausma called his client, Ahmed Yusuf, a “Robin Hood”.

He told reporters that pirates “attack ships of rich countries to give the ransom to poor families”.

He later told judges there were different types of pirates operating off Somalia – those who gave ransom money to organised crime gangs and others “who just go to sea in the hope of getting something more than the fish that are no longer there”.

Haroon Raza, a lawyer for another of the suspects, applied for him to be released so that he could return to Somalia to provide for his family.

Judges rejected the application, and the suspects were sent back to the five Dutch jails where they’re being held apart from one another.

Reuters separately reports a 31 000-tonne German grain carrier seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden last month has been released.

“The Patriot is free,” said Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme.

The Malta-flagged, German-owned MV Patriot belongs to Patriot Schiffahrts and is managed by Blumenthal JMK of Hamburg, Germany. It was seized with 17 crew on board.

There was no immediate information on whether a ransom had been paid, or the health of the crew members.