Five Somali Pirates Convicted

In the first piracy trial in the US since the Civil War
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2010 12:07 PM CST
In this artist's sketch, bottom row from left, Abdi Gurewardher, Abdi Umar, Mohammed Hasan, Abdi Dire and Gabul Ali listen to interpreter Ayderus Ali as Judge Mark Davis looks on, Nov. 23, 2010.   (AP Photo/Alba Bragoli)

(Newser) – Five Somali men accused of attacking a US Navy ship off Africa's coast were convicted on federal piracy charges today, in what experts said was the first trial of its kind since 1861. The verdict was handed down by a jury in US District Court in Norfolk, as the five men stood in silence. They face mandatory life terms at a sentencing hearing set for March 14 in Norfolk.

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. The men allegedly opened fire on it with assault rifles, only to flee when it returned fire with machine guns. Defense lawyers had argued the men were innocent fishermen who had been abducted by pirates and forced to fire their weapons at the ship, and had actually hoped to be rescued.

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