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U.S. Court Upholds Somali Pirates’ Conviction

Thursday, May 24, 2012

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A United States federal appeals court upheld the convictions of five Somali pirates on Wednesday, making clear that the definition of piracy includes violent attempts to hijack a ship even if unsuccessful.

The Fourth United States Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., upheld what federal prosecutors described as the first United States piracy convictions in 190 years, finding that an individual did not have to seize or rob a ship to have committed piracy. The court rejected an effort by five Somali men to overturn their convictions for attacking a United States Navy ship, the Warship Nicholas, that they mistook for a merchant vessel in April 2010. The men were sentenced to life in prison, the punishment for piracy, and an additional 80 years.

In a separate decision, the Fourth Circuit also reversed the dismissal of piracy charges against Somali defendants in a case stemming from a thwarted attack on another Navy ship, the Ashland. (REUTERS)

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