US jury convicts Somalis as pirates in Navy attack
Five Somali men accused of attacking a U.S. Navy ship off Africa’s coast were convicted Wednesday on federal piracy charges in what the government said was the first piracy conviction in a U.S. courtroom in nearly 200 years.
The verdict was handed down by a jury in U.S. District Court. The five men, who wore earphones, stood silently as the verdict was read to them by an interpreter. They face mandatory life terms at a sentencing hearing set for March 14 in Norfolk.
Attorneys for the five said they didn’t fully grasp the trial, the charges or the verdict.
“He really doesn’t understand fully,” said Jon N. Babineau, who represented Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher. “He does understand he will die in a U.S. prison. He understands that.”
“They were just sad,” said David Bouchard, who defended Abdi Wali Dire.
Defense lawyers had argued the men were innocent fishermen who had been abducted by pirates and forced to fire their weapons at the ship.
But federal prosecutors argued during trial that the five had confessed to attacking the USS Nicholas on April 1 after mistaking it for a merchant ship. The Nicholas, based in Norfolk, was part of an international flotilla fighting piracy in the seas off Somalia.