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Federal court to try Somali piracy suspect as adult

[JURIST] Alleged Somali pirate Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, captured by US forces following an attempted attack on the container ship Maersk Alabama [corporate backgrounder], was charged [compliant, PDF] Tuesday and will be tried as an adult following a ruling by federal magistrate judge Andrew Peck of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website]. Muse, whose exact age is unknown [Washington Post report], has been charged with five counts relating to the pirate attack on the Alabama, including committing an act of piracy as defined by the law of nations, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, conspiracy to take hostages, and two counts relating to the use of a firearm during commission of a crime. Muse's father testified via telephone [NYT report] in an attempt to establish his son's age for the court, but Peck discredited the testimony after the elder Muse was unable to give precise dates of birth for any of Muse's siblings. The government complaint alleges that Muse coordinated the attack, and presented himself to the ship's crew as the leader of the attacking gang. If the case proceeds to trial, it will be the first major piracy trial in the US since 1885 [AP report].

Earlier this month, the Commandant of the US Coast Guard called for greater enforcement [JURIST report] of international piracy laws. In March, the European Union (EU) [official website] announced an agreement with Kenya [JURIST report] to transfer suspected pirates captured by EU counter-pirate operations into Kenyan custody for prosecution. In December, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] called for greater judicial cooperation [JURIST report] to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. In October, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia." Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia's coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world [BBC report] due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid [NPR report].

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