Six Somali men suspected of attacking the USS Ashland in April were dismissed on charges of piracy in a US federal court in Virginia today. While the men face seven other charges for the April 10 attack, Judge Raymond Jackson ruled that the piracy charges be dropped since the group did not rob, board or take control of the vessel. BBC News tells us:
The piracy charges, which would have carried a minimum penalty of life in prison if proven, were brought under a nearly 200-year-old statute in a courtroom in Norfolk, Virginia.
Prosecutors argued that any unauthorized armed attack or violent act on open waters should qualify as piracy.
But the judge ruled that broader acts like these fell outside the charges.
“The court finds that the government has failed to establish that any unauthorized acts of violence or aggression committed on the high seas constitutes piracy as defined by the law,” Judge Jackson said in his ruling. Keep Reading
The April 10 attack on the USS Ahland occurred 330 nautical miles off the coast of Djibouti when the men, aboard a small skiff, began firing at the USS Ahland. The Ashland returned fire, sinking the skiff and forcing the men into the water. Ashland then deployed a visit, board, search and seizure team to rescue the suspects from the sea.
[Image courtesy: US Navy]