A jury for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on Wednesday convicted five Somali men on charges of piracy [JURIST news archive], the first such conviction in the US in nearly 200 years. The men were found guilty on charges of piracy, attacking to plunder a maritime vessel and assault with a dangerous weapon for their roles in an April attack on the USS Nichols, which was deployed to combat piracy in waters off the eastern coast of Africa. They were charged by a federal grand jury in April, and pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in July. They face mandatory life sentences at a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 14.
Several other nations have also been conducting piracy trials. Earlier this week, a German court began the trial [JURIST report] of 10 suspected Somali pirates in that country's first piracy trial in 400 years. Last month, a Yemeni court sentenced [JURIST report] a group of 10 Somali pirates to five years in prison. Recently, the high court of Mombasa ruled that Kenya does not have jurisdiction [JURIST report] outside of its national waters, releasing nine suspected Somali pirates. The ruling could have implications for future piracy prosecutions, as Kenyan courts have handled the bulk of piracy trials. Other nations that have conducted such trials include the Netherlands, Seychelles and Mauritius [JURIST reports].