Somali Pirate to go on Trial in New York

April 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
This could be the first prosecution on piracy charges in the United States since 1861.The young man accused of taking part in hijacking an American cargo ship will make his first court appearance today in a New York court room.

Abdiwali Muse (Abduhl Wali-i-MooSAY) smiled but didn't say a word as he was led into a federal building Monday night.

He is the lone surviving alleged Somali pirate accused of attacking the crew of the Maersk Alabama and taking the American ship's captain Richard Phillips hostage.

The parents of Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse insist he's only 16. But law enforcement officials claim he's at least 18. That means prosecutors will not have to take extra legal steps to put him on trial in U.S. court. Piracy is a crime for which there is universal jurisdiction.

"We will work on clarifying the legal authorities that exist," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "We're going to have to determine the best way to bring pirates to justice after they're captured."

And there will have to be additional discussion about this at NATO as well.

The teenager was flown from Africa to New York where he'll be arraigned Tuesday in federal court. His mother said "gangsters with money" coaxed her son into the pirate life. "I would like to request from the U.S. government and President Obama to release my son. He has nothing to do with that crime, he is only a child, and he has been used for that crime by the other men."

U.S. officials said the teenager was brought to New York to face trial because the FBI office here has a history of handling cases in Africa involving major crimes against Americans.

Navy SEAL snipers killed three of Wali-Musi's colleagues who kidnapped Captain Phillips after attempting to hijack the Maersk Alabama. The suspect's father said the pirates lied to his son, telling him they were going to get money. He says their family is penniless.

Muse is being charged with two federal laws that deal with piracy and hostage-taking. The charges could carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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