The deaths of two Seattle residents and of their hosts aboard a yacht boarded by Somali pirates were caused by the U.S. Navy and the FBI, according to attorneys defending three Somali men on trial in Virginia.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
NORFOLK, Va. — Lawyers for three Somali men accused of killing two Seattleites and two other Americans aboard a yacht claim the deaths resulted from actions by the U.S. Navy and the FBI.
Defense lawyers say an unstable situation was created by what they call "aggressive actions" by the Navy and "failure to conduct the negotiations with the Somalis in a proper fashion."
Co-defendants Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar could face the death penalty if convicted.
The owners of the yacht Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were the first Americans killed in a wave of pirate attacks off the coast of East Africa despite an international flotilla of warships that patrol the area.
In February 2011, the Adamses' boat was boarded by 19 men several hundred miles south of Oman.
The pirates' plan to bring the Americans to Somalia to conduct ransom negotiation fell apart when U.S. Navy warships began shadowing the Quest.
The destroyer USS Sterett was maneuvering between the Quest and the Somali coast when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at it. Soon after, shots were fired on board the Quest.
Four of the hijackers died. Eleven others pleaded guilty to piracy and were sentenced to life in prison.
Defense lawyers say the yacht captain, fearing the hijackers would harm him and the other hostages, repeatedly asked Navy officials not to come too close. The Navy agreed each time.
"While the defense does not contend that the actions of the Navy/FBI are legal defenses to any of the charges, it is without dispute that none of the Americans had been harmed until the Navy/FBI acted in an extremely aggressive fashion," defense lawyers wrote.