Somali Pirates Given Life Sentences for Attacking U.S. Warship

Mar 15, 2011, 06:28

Five Somali pirates were sentenced in Virginia Monday to life in federal prison with another 80 years tacked on for attacking a U.S. warship.

"Today marks the longest sentence ever given to a pirate in U.S. court, following the first time in over 190 years that an American jury has convicted a defendant of piracy," U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. "Today's sentences should send a clear message to those who attempt to engage in piracy: Armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels carry severe consequences in U.S. courts."

MacBride said it is believed 650 to 800 people are being held hostage by Somali pirates and pegged the global cost of piracy at as much as $12 billion a year.

"Modern-day pirates not only threaten human lives but also disrupt international commerce by extorting hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments," he said.

The five defendants -- Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher and Abdi Mohammed Umar, all from Somalia -- were found guilty Nov. 24 of piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, act of violence against persons on a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence and multiple firearm counts, including the use of a rocket propelled grenade.

The Somalis had set out in three vessels April 1, 2010, to commandeer what they thought to be a merchant ship, only to discover it was actually the USS Nicholas, a Navy frigate.

Source: UPI