Somali to Stand Trial, but not for Piracy

WASHINGTON (CN) - A Somalian accused of involvement in the 71-day siege of a Danish ship in the Gulf of Aden will face conspiracy to commit hostage-taking and aiding-and-abetting charges, but a federal judge dismissed a piracy charge against him.
     "Congress has not ... authorized prosecutions for piracy on the basis of universal jurisdiction that depart from the international definition of the crime," U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled.
     Pirates took over the CEC Future on Nov. 7, 2008, while the ship was transporting cargo for Texas-based McDermott International.
     Using AK-47s, a rocket-propelled grenade and handguns to seize the vessel, the pirates held the cargo and the 13 crewmembers hostage for 71 days, until the ship's Danish owner, the Clipper Group, delivered a $1.7 million ransom.
     Ali Mohamed Ali, who claimed he was as much a prisoner as the vessel's crew, was arrested more than 2 years after the hijacking at Dulles International Airport, while en route from Somalia to an education conference in Raleigh.
     He was criminally charged with three counts: piracy, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking. He sought dismissal, claiming the charges were legally defective under international and domestic law.
     Huvelle dismissed the piracy charge "for failure to state an offense," but will allow the charges that he "intentionally facilitated acts of piracy while he was on the high seas," took hostages and conspired with pirates.
     "Whereas in the 19th century the United States met the challenge of hostage-piracy on the waves with gunboats and cannon, today the United States prefers to prosecute it with the rule of law," Huvelle wrote, quoting a scholar. "The approach is commendable. Its actual execution, however, has been lamentable."
     Ali claims he was forced to board the pirates' ship and translate their demands to the Clipper Group.
     Prosecutors say he negotiated $75,000 for himself in addition to the $1.7 million ransom for the pirates.