Nine Somalis plead not guilty to US piracy charges

Nine Somali men accused of attacking two US Navy ships off the coast of Africa pleaded not guilty to piracy, plundering and weapons charges.

Norfolk: Nine Somali men accused of attacking two US Navy ships off the coast of Africa pleaded not guilty to piracy, plundering and weapons charges.

US Magistrate Judge J Bradford Stillman ordered the nine held until their trials, tentatively scheduled for July. The government is expected to seek September trial dates.

Of 11 Somali men indicted last week on US charges, one entered a not guilty plea on Wednesday and another is scheduled to be arraigned next week.

The nine men arraigned yesterday were scheduled to enter pleas on Wednesday but attorneys representing them said they needed more time to explain the government`s accusations with an interpreter present. Some said they had spent only 30 minutes with their client and were not confident they understood US court procedures.

None of the defendants speak English. All face mandatory life terms, if convicted.

Attorneys said they not only faced a language barrier, but the cultural shock the men faced after they were detained by the Navy and taken to the US.

"My client doesn`t read or speak any language, much less English," William J Holmes, who represents Gabul Abdullahi
Ali, said before yesterday`s hearing. "It`s like being picked up and being taken to another planet."

PTI