A Yemeni man pleaded guilty [press release] Thursday to acts of piracy for a hijacking of a US vessel that resulted in the deaths of four US citizens. Mounir Ali pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] to being involved in the hijacking of a US yacht called Quest, in which four Americans were taken hostage and later killed by the pirates. They were the first US citizens to die in the recent wave of international maritime piracy [JURIST news archive]. Ali admitted that he willingly joined four other men in a pirated Somali ship as they attempted to hijack the US vessel. He noted in his plea agreement that he personally did not shoot any of the hostages nor did he order them be shot. Neil MacBride, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website], said Ali, "admitted today that his greed for ransom money ultimately led to the cold-blooded murder of the four U.S. hostages. This latest guilty plea again shows that modern piracy is far different than the romantic portrayal in summer-time movies. Pirates who attack on U.S. citizens on the high seas will face justice in a U.S. courtroom." In March, a grand jury in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia indicted 14 suspects, 13 Somali and one Yemeni, for hijacking the Quest. They were charged with piracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and the use of firearms during a crime. Ali awaits sentencing scheduled for October.
Piracy remains an issue of international concern, as few countries have been willing to prosecute suspected pirates. In April, a Somali pirate was sentenced [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] to 25 years in prison for attacking a Danish ship off the coast of Somalia in 2008, for which he and other pirates received a $1.7 million ransom. The few countries that have attempted to prosecute them include Germany, Seychelles, the Netherlands, Mauritius, Yemen, Somalia and Spain [JURIST reports].