U.S. federal prosecutors are dropping their case against a Somali man accused of negotiating a $1.7 million ransom payment for the release of the CEC Future cargo ship following its November 2008 hijacking in the Gulf of Aden.According to a report from the Associated Press, prosecutors have decided to drop all charges after a jury in December remained deadlocked on the remaining two charges of hostage-taking against Ali Mohamed Ali, a Somali translator who helped negotiate the ransom for release of the ship and crew. He was previously acquitted for charges of piracy charges in relation to the incident.
“We stand by the original decision to bring charges against Mr. Ali, which was justified by the evidence presented at trial of his role in piracy and hostage-taking, but recognize that in our system it is jurors who must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to hold him accountable,” the office of the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia said in a statement obtained by the AP.
Ali boarded the CEC Future a few days after it was seized and communicated an initial $7 million ransom demand from the pirates. The communications between Ali and Clipper CEO Per Gullestrup were actually featured in the 2012 documentary Stolen Seas, which gives an intimate look at the Somali pirate phenomenon by focussing on the CEC Future hijacking and negotiations just as the piracy epidemic was coming into full swing in the region.
Identified in the movie as Ishmael Ali, the movie played several audio clips of the actual negotiations between him and Gullestrup, eventually settling on the $1.7 million ransom figure. Over the course of the film, Ali, who never considered himself a pirate, formed a no-BS relationship Gullestrup and an odd bond with the shipping executive that lasted even after the ordeal was over.
Ali actually joked that he considered himself the 14th hostage, along with the 13 crewmembers, because he was only trying to get his bosses what they demanded so he could return home to his family. Reports in the media say Ali was never actually paid his share for role.
Ali was arrested in April 2011 upon entering the United States and charged with piracy, conspiracy, attacking a vessel and hostage-taking, and faced life in prison if convicted of the charges.
An article published today to the website Politico said that Ali is currently in immigration detention in Virginia and seeking permanent asylum in the United States.
‘Stolen Seas’ Trailer (Full documentary is available on Netflix)