A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Wednesday sentenced Somali pirate Abduwali Muse to 34 years in prison [FBI press release] for the 2009 hijacking of the vessel Maersk Alabama. Muse had originally pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in May to hijacking, kidnapping and taking hostages in the matter. Muse has claimed to be a minor at the time of the attack on the Maersk Alabama, an item used by his defense team in an effort to have the sentence reduced [Reuters report]. Judge Loretta Preska, unswayed by the defense, imposed a sentence on the high end of the range of possible sentences, saying that such a long prison term was necessary to deter piracy [Bloomberg report].
Piracy near the continent of Africa has become an increasingly serious problem for private shipowners and many nations. Also on Wednesday, a Norwegian ship owner suggested that pirates should be executed on the spot [AP report] when they attempt to hijack ships, a stance that drew criticism from the Norwegian government. While private citizens have their own opinions, the tact by governments has been to arrest and imprison pirates. In November, a Somali pirate was sentenced to 30 years in prison [JURIST report] by a federal judge in Virginia for an attack on a Navy vessel. One of the most active nations in trying suspected pirates is Kenya, which has opened a court entirely devoted to hearing piracy cases [JURIST report].