Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Somalians Convicted of Piracy Based on Slave-era Law

Somalians Convicted of Piracy Based on Slave-era Law

Federal trial stems from U.S. aims in the Horn of Africa

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Five Somalians nationals were convicted of piracy in a United States federal court in Norfolk, Virginia on Nov. 24. The sentencing of the Somalians will take place in March 2011 and they could be given life in prison based on a combination of slave-era laws and criminal statutes that have not been litigated in this manner since 1861.

The captured Somalians claimed that they were fishing off the coast of the country and were forced to fire on the “Nicholas”, a U.S. boat that was part of an international flotilla of warships stationed in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Government prosecutors tried the case on the allegation that the defendants fired on a U.S. military boat thinking it was a commercial ship that could be held for ransom.

U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride stated after the convictions that “Today marks the first jury conviction of piracy in more than 190 years. Today’s conviction demonstrates that armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels are crimes against the international community and that pirates will face severe consequences in U.S. courts.” (examiner.com, Nov. 27)

The trial lasted for nine days and resulted in the convictions of Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Mohammed Umar, Ali Abdi Wali Dire, and Abdi Mohammed Guerwardher for “piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, act of violence against persons on a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence, and multiple firearm counts, including the use of a rocket propelled grenade (RPG).” (examiner.com, Nov. 27)

These convictions come amid a chorus of demands from imperialist military forces to intensify their aggressive dominance of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean near the Horn of Africa. Since 2008 both the European Union and the United States have led a coalition of naval forces that have pledged to control the flow of goods, oil and arms through the Gulf of Aden and to work towards the prevention of the Islamic resistance forces from seizing total power inside Somalia.

Philippe Coindreau, the EU commander of the anti-piracy naval force known as NAVFOR, told members of the international media in a videoconference that “Our action enables us to contain piracy but certainly not resolve it. It is desirable that the countries of the region agree to judge the pirates and that an international solution be found as quickly as possible.” (AFP, Nov. 25)

The EU commander pointed out that the level of attacks against commercial and other vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean remained steady but that the area of operations for the NAVFOR forces had broadened. In addition to the U.S. trial in Norfolk, ten Somalians arrested in the Indian Ocean went on trial in Hamburg, Germany in November.

Despite the cooperation of the neighboring east African nation of Kenya to assist the imperialist states in the anti-piracy campaign in the region, a recent trial in that country resulted in the acquittal of 26 people also charged with hijacking vessels for ransom. More than 700 people are now in custody in 12 different countries for piracy.

There are proposals put forward by the United Nations to establish an anti-piracy court ostensibly under Somalian control that would put on trial people arrested and charged with this crime on the high seas. Kenya has been suggested as a possible location for the new court.

Trials Designed to Provide Political Basis for Further U.S. Intervention

Somalia has been targeted by the United States in its so-called “war on terrorism.” At present the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu, the capital, is being propped-up by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) that is underwritten largely by U.S. military appropriations. The AMISOM forces are predominately staffed by several thousand soldiers supplied by the U.S.-backed governments of Uganda and Burundi.

U.S. interest in Somalia goes back decades, when during the 1970s, the Carter administration sought to weaken the revolution in neighboring Ethiopia by bribing the military government of Mohamed Siad Barre into an alliance with the Pentagon. A subsequent U.S.-instigated invasion into Ethiopia by Somalian forces in 1978 met with decisive defeat by the Ethiopian military assisted by Cuban internationalist forces that were inside the region to help in the consolidation of a socialist revolution in Ethiopia at the time.

The trial of the five Somalian men in Norfolk should be viewed within the past and present political context involving U.S. foreign policy aims and objectives. Another failed attempt at intervention in Somalia took place from 1992-94, when U.S. marines invaded the country under the guise of a humanitarian mission to feed the hungry and displaced.

Within a few months of the intervention, the Somali masses had rose up against both the U.S. and United Nations forces inside the country compelling a withdrawal in 1994. In recent months there have been hints from the Pentagon of a desire to engage in another direct military assault on Somalia.

These efforts on the part of the U.S. ruling class stems from its desire to control the strategic trade routes in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula regions. This is also linked to claims on oil concessions by U.S. multi-national firms in and around Somalia.

In neighboring Djibouti, the U.S. and France both have military bases that are often used in war games conducted by the Pentagon and the EU military forces stationed in the region. The imperialists do not want any government to come to power in the region that is independent of U.S. influence.

This policy is manifested inside the U.S. when Somalian expatriates are arrested and charged with crimes related to the “war on terrorism.” In Portland during late November, a 19-year-old Somalian youth, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was entrapped and charged by the FBI in a sting operation involving a non-existent plot to set off a bomb at a holiday celebration. The entire plot was concocted and engineered by the FBI that uses such incidents to justify large-scale domestic spending on homeland security as well as defense spending to wage a permanent war in the so-called Third World.

In April of 2009, the U.S. Navy shot dead three Somalian youth and wounded another then brought a captured 16-year-old Abdiwali Muse to New York to stand trial for piracy.

These criminal cases, coupled with the targeting of the Somali community inside the U.S., has created an atmosphere of hostility among this population group in various areas of the country.

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