Tuesday, August 17, 2010

United States District Court Drops 'Piracy' Charges Against 6 Somalians

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
00:11 Mecca time, 21:11 GMT

Somali 'piracy' charges dropped

Pirates have been operating off the coast of Somalia for years

A US judge has thrown out piracy charges against six Somali nationals who were accused of attacking a Navy ship off the eastern coast of Africa on April 10.

Judge Raymond Jackson dismissed the piracy charges on Tuesday, concluding that the US government had failed to make a reasonable case that the men's actions amounted to piracy, but the accused still face seven other charges related to the alleged attack.

"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," Jackson said in a 21-page ruling.

Prosecutors had accused the six men aboard a small skiff in the Gulf of Aden of opening fire on the USS Ashland, a warship that supports amphibious operations.

The six men, and a group of five other Somalis captured after allegedly firing on another US warship, were brought to Norfolk, Virginia, where they were charged in a US criminal court with the attacks on the vessels.

Lawyers for the six Somalis accused of attacking the USS Ashland argued that the piracy charge should have been dropped because they did not board or take control of the warship or obtain anything of value from it.

The men were also charged with other crimes, including attacking to plunder a vessel, acts of violence against people on a vessel, conspiracy and assault with a dangerous weapon on US officers and employees.

Their trial is due to begin in October.

Source: Agencies

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