Walk the Plank

Somali Pirates Going to Court

All rise and shiver me timbers. Five men accused of firing on a U.S. Navy ship off the coast of Somalia will be defendants in America’s first piracy trial in more than 100 years. If convicted they face life in prison—the mandatory minimum punishment for piracy in the U.S. An attorney for the defendants asserts that, because the men never actually boarded and took command of the USS Nichols, they cannot be tried for piracy, but prosecutors say an 1820 Supreme Court decision proves otherwise. Somalia’s U.N. representative, Omar Jamal, calls the prosecution “vigilante justice,” adding, "I find it difficult to believe that the international community is rendered helpless by a bunch of teenagers, chewing khat (a narcotic), and armed with AK-47s and RPGs.” News of the trial comes on the heels of the announcement that other Somali pirates have just received a record ransom of $12.3 million in exchange for a South Korean oil tanker and a Singaporean ship.