Suspected pirates skiff drifts at sea after being burnt the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). U.S. Navy photo, by Chief Fire Controlman Harry J. Storms

Suspected pirates skiff drifts at sea after being burnt the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). U.S. Navy photo

Successful or not, if you attack a ship, you are a pirate… and you will be convicted. Period.

A federal jury in Virginia this week convicted five Somali men on piracy charges for their role in 2010 attack on the the USS Ashland, ending a landmark case that challenged the United State’s definition of piracy on the high seas.

“These defendants are headed where they belong: to federal prison,” said George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “Let this send a clear message of deterrence to anyone who threatens those who traverse the high seas.”

During the attack on April 10, 2010, the five Somali men chased and fired upon the amphibious dock landing ship, USS Ashland, that they had somehow mistook for a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden. The attack was quickly “handled” by the heavily armed crew of the Ashland, who then apprehended the suspects and sank the skiffs.

During the original trial, lawyers for the defendants argued that since the pirates were never successful in boarding or robbing the Ashland, the piracy charge should be dismissed… and it was. Prosectors appealed in pursuit of the piracy charge and, as it turned out, a similar case was making its way through the federal appeals court in Virginia that involved another unsuccessful attack on a U.S. Navy ship, the USS Nicholas, where the pirates were convicted on piracy charges and sentenced to life in prison.

The appeals led to a May 2012 ruling by a federal grand jury on the definition of piracy on the high seas to include any attack on a ship even if unsuccessful, and uphold the convictions and life sentences in the case of the Nicholas attack while remanding the case involving the USS Ashland back to court.

The five men were later charged in a second superseding indictment that was filed on August 8, 2012.

“These men were pirates—plain and simple,” said Neil MacBride, a U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case. “They attacked a ship hoping to hold it ransom for millions of dollars. Few crimes are older than piracy on the high seas, and today’s verdict shows that the United States takes it very seriously.”

The five men are scheduled to be sentenced on July 1 and July 2, 2013. The maximum sentence and the convictions are as follows:

  • Conspiracy to commit hostage taking carries a maximum sentence of life in prison
  • Conspiracy to commit kidnapping carries a maximum sentence of life in prison
  • Conspiracy to perform act of violence against persons on a vessel carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
  • Conspiracy involving firearm and a crime of violence carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
  • Piracy under the Law of Nations carries a maximum sentence of life in prison
  • Attack to plunder vessel carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
  • Act of violence against persons on a vessel carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
  • And use/possession of firearm during crime of violence carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison if convicted of one count. A second or subsequent conviction adds an additional 25 years, making the prison term a minimum mandatory 35 years.

The following are the names of those convicted:

Mohamed Ali Said, a/k/a Maxamad Cali Saciid; Mohamed Abdi Jama, a/k/a Mohammed Abdi Jamah; Abdicasiis Cabaase, a/k/a Ahmed Mahomood; Abdirazaq Abshir Osman, a/k/a Abdirasaq Abshir; and Mohamed Farah, a/k/a Mohamed Farraah Hassan.

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  • CAPT Steven P. Gardiner

    Hanging…precedence set for the encouragement of others.

      • http://NONE PAUL

        Hey Doug..you are so pathetic..calling these pirates LIBERALS… who the “F” do you think you are. You’re trying to pretend you’re inteliighent..but your not…..

  • Fix

    you are right!
    just shoot them down
    like it has been done (quite successfully !) to indians attacking pioneers convoys.
    final solution

  • http://GreatEarthNavigation.Com Captain Robert Scott

    Anybody dumb enough to attack a Navy vessel need to be locked up to protect them.

  • Craig Seifert

    I guess that these Somalis Pirates just hit the jackpot. Free food, medical, dental and conjugal visits from the desperate women’s club of America.

    Hell, Eric Holder may even foot the bill for their families to live nearby the federal prison that they get shacked up in, at tax payer’s expense of course.

  • Charles Rahn

    These bastards made out, free food, housing, medical & dental care, and security. Much better than they had in Somlia. They should have been shot at sea aboard their own boat and sunk. It will cost us at $40,000 per man per year (todays money) to keep their sorry asses locked up.

  • Robert Lindsay

    I agree with all of the above. Anyone that is in a skiff or other vessel carrying RPG’s and AK47’s has one thing in mind , Piracy. The US and other Force’s should show them just how those RPG’s work , right on the spot. Forget the court system. Do as they would have done to others if they were not caught. BTW . They should get rid of that amnesty I’m reading about lately. What a joke !

  • http://gravatar.com/revolutionary9 revolutionary9

    Life in prison for an unsuccesful attack while the bankers who robbed the world of trillions are rewared with trillions by the governments of the people they robbed. As a Brecht line said from one of his plays: “It is better to rob a bank then to own one.”

  • anthony ughiowe

    To save us all this long story, these men would have been wasted and fed to the fishes. Priracy is evil!!

  • Ben Hedges

    Commander in Chief Obama will pardon them within 18 months with the clear instructions that they are to return to Somali and offer themselves as proof “Piracy Doesn’t Pay”. Besides, if you look closely at the picture of the skiff you can see a fishing rod. These were harmless fishermen, and I don’t think they were attacking anyone, they were just firing “Welcoming Shots”. Welcoming Shots are often fired at funerals, weddings, football victories, and when passing strangers on open seas. It’s a cultural thing our Armed Forces just can’t seem to understand.

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