Pirate Negotiator Can’t Upend Life Sentences

     (CN) – The 4th Circuit affirmed the convictions of a Somali pirate who served as a ransom negotiator for hostages on two ships captured in international waters.
     According to his indictment, Mohammad Saaili Shibin negotiated a $5 million ransom for the German merchant vessel, the Marida Marguerite, in 2010. He also was described as the “negotiator” by pirates who held hostage, and later killed, four Americans aboard the Quest, a sailing ship participating in an international yacht rally.
     Shibin was captured in Somalia in April 2011. He was transported to Virginia for trial and convicted of multiple counts of piracy and related crimes. Shibin received multiple life sentences.
     On appeal, the Richmond, Va.-based 4th Circuit rejected all of Shibin’s claims for relief.
     Shibin challenged his piracy convictions by arguing that he did not himself act on the “high seas.” He claimed that he had boarded the Marida Marguerite only after the ship had docked. Shibin also argued that he was never personally asked to be the negotiator for the Quest piracy, and was unaware that other pirates had named him. This argument missed the mark, however, with the appellate court finding that “liability for aiding and abetting piracy is not limited to conduct on the high seas.”
     Two United Nations Security Council resolutions “reflect, without ambiguity, the international viewpoint that piracy committed on the high seas is an act against all nations and all humankind and that persons committing those acts on the high seas, as well as those supporting those acts from anywhere, may be prosecuted by any nation under international law,” Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote for a three-member panel.
     The court also refused to dismiss the indictment because Shibin was “forcibly seized and removed from [Somalia] by agents of the United States government and was provided no opportunity to challenge either his detention or his removal.” Somalia’s lack of an extradition treaty does not limit U.S. jurisdiction over the case, the panel found.
     Shibin’s non-piracy convictions, which included hostage taking, violence against maritime navigation, and use of a firearm during a crime of violence, also stand, according to the ruling. Congress specifically designed the statutes in question to apply extraterritorially, the court noted.
     Finally, the panel upheld the admission of an FBI’s agent’s rebuttal testimony that relied on interviews mediated by an interpreter.
     “While interpreted testimony might be unusable without the interpreter’s presence in a circumstance ‘where the particular facts of a case cast significant doubt upon the accuracy of a translated confession,’ no such facts were presented in this case,” Niemeyer wrote.

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