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Somalia piracy suspect pleads guilty in federal court

A Somali man charged with piracy [JURIST news archive] pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of hijacking, kidnapping, and hostage taking related to last April's attack on the US container ship Maersk Alabama [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse was originally charged [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] 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. As part of a plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to drop the charges of piracy against Muse in exchange for his guilty plea and a sentence of 27 to 33 years in prison. Muse agreed not to challenge the sentence, and he apologized [Reuters report] for his actions, claiming the act of piracy happened because of the current situation in Somalia. Somali officials have criticized [BBC report] the US for exercising jurisdiction over Muse and other pirate suspects [JURIST report], insisting that piracy prosecutions should be conducted by an international tribunal. They have also asked that Somali pirate suspects be returned to Somalia, which lacks a functioning central government to address the piracy problem. Muse is scheduled to be sentenced on October 19.

Piracy remains an issue of international concern. On Monday, the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] opened a UN conference on international crime by warning [JURIST report] about the inadequacies of the current international system in dealing with crimes like piracy. Earlier this month, the UNODC announced [JURIST report] that Seychelles will create a UN-supported center to prosecute suspected pirates. Last month, the UN Security Council unanimously approved [JURIST report] a resolution calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urging Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] to consider an international tribunal for prosecuting piracy. The Security Council resolution came the same week the UN announced that a trust fund established to combat piracy will be funding five projects [UN News Centre report] aimed at piracy committed in the waters around Somalia.

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