Somali national Mohommad Saaili Shibin was convicted in a US court on Friday of piracy [JURIST news archive] for his role in the hijacking of a German merchant vessel and a US yacht in 2010 and 2011. Shibin, who played the role of negotiator in the hijackings, was convicted of 15 charges [AP report], including kidnapping and hostage-taking which require a sentence of life in prison. According to a statement by US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride [official profile], Shibin is the highest-ranking pirate ever to be convicted in the US. US officials are hopeful that Shibin's conviction will send a strong message to deter Somali pirates from hijacking US ships. Shibin's attorney, James Broccoletti, will appeal the case on grounds that the case should have been prosecuted in Somalia instead of the US because Shibin was arrested in Somalia, not in international waters. Broccoletti also contends the definition of piracy is in dispute after two federal judges have handed down different rulings, giving another ground for appeal in the case. The prosecution argued that piracy was more than the defense's contention of robbery at sea and that is was instead includes "facilitating a pirate attack."
Somali pirates have been garnishing much attention lately from the international community. Last month, the US government handed over 15 suspected Somali pirates [JURIST report] it captured in January to the Republic of Seychelles for prosecution. The suspects are accused of attacking a ship and kidnapping 13 Iranian fisherman, all of whom the US Navy rescued. In December, Seychelles President James Michel asked world leaders to address security problems in Somalia [JURIST report] with greater urgency in order to lower the rate of Somali pirate attacks in the southern Indian Ocean. In November, Assistant Secretary-General for Political AffairsTaye-Brook Zerihoun told the UN Security Council that in order to successfully combat piracy, member states must increase security and legal action against pirates [JURIST report] and provide further support to the Somalian economy. Zerihoun stated that although recent efforts in the international community have reduced the instances of piracy in the East African region, many nations have failed to prosecute accused pirates.