New York: A Somali man has pleaded guilty
for hijacking an American cargo ship and kidnapping its
captain last year, but may escape life sentence after
prosecutors dropped a formal piracy charge.
Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, who was captured by the US
Navy amid a bloody operation last year to free a US merchant
captain, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Manhattan to
charges of hostage taking, kidnapping and conspiracy.
"As part of that plan, in April 2009, I boarded the
Maersk Alabama with three other men when the ship was about
250 miles off the coast of Somalia. With the use of guns, we
took control of the ship and seized the captain and the men on
the boat," Muse was quoted as saying by the New York Post
The New York Times reported that in exchange for his
guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop four of the six counts
against him, including the most serious, "the crime of piracy
as defined by the law of nations," which carries a mandatory
"What we did was wrong," Muse told District Judge
Loretta A. Preska, through an interpreter, as reported by the
Times in the first piracy case to hit the docks of US courts
"I am very, very sorry for the harm we did. The reason
for this is the problems in Somalia. "
The Times also noted that Muse?s age was still a
source of contentions. At a hearing last year, Muse's father
testified via telephone from Somalia that his son was born
November 20, 1993 and Muse again told Judge Preska that he was
born in 1993.
So by some accounts, the pirate was 15 at the time
when the ship was hijacked but another judge had already ruled
last year that the accused was an adult and Muse himself had
agreed to be judged as one. Although, his lawyer argued that
age should be a mitigating factor.
Muse was brought to the U.S. in April 2009, shortly
after he and three other men seized the ship in the Indian
Ocean - an episode that ended with a rescue by the U.S. Navy
Seals after days later.
Three of other pirates were killed.
US Attorney, Preet Bharara, as reported by the Post,
said the "five-day Maersk hijacking and the events leading up
to it make clear that modern-day piracy is a crime against the
international community and a form of terrorism on the high
"Muse faces somewhere between 27 to 33 years in
prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 19.
First Published: Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 23:23