Somali Pirate Suspects Were Handcuffed, Naked and Blindfolded, Charge Attorneys

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Several motions were filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk this week, claiming that three alleged Somali pirates were held naked, blindfolded and handcuffed for days.

Attorneys also say that other Somalis were not properly advised of their Miranda rights, and therefore statements they made should not be allowed in court. One of the men claims that his interpreter threatened to throw him overboard, while others say they had no access to an interpreter. None of the defendants speaks English.

Moreover, say attorneys, even if the men had been advised of their rights “to remain silent” and “to request counsel,” they would not have understood the legal terminology.

Five Somalis are being prosecuted for an alleged attack on the USS Nicholas, off the coast of Africa, which took place on April 1. Another six Somali men are accused of having attacked the USS Ashland, and will be arraigned later this month on a new indictment that will add charges.

Mohammed Modin Hasan, speaking through his lawyer, claims that he was caught by pirates while he was fishing and forced to participate in the Nicholas attack. Once he was captured by the U.S., Hasan says, an interpreter told him that the Navy would throw him overboard if he did not confess to being a pirate. Although Hasan does not know when he born, the attorney said that the alleged pirate was younger than 18 when the incident occurred, and should be released from custody.

Prosecutors say that the five defendants sailed a vessel with two smaller craft attached from Somalia, looking for a merchant ship, and that they were armed with a rocket-propelled grenade. They came across the Nicholas west of the Seychelles and exchanged fire with the frigate’s crew before being captured.

All 11 of the alleged pirates are in custody in the Norfolks area, and are charged with engaging in piracy and related offenses related to the April attacks on the Navy ships. If convicted on the charge of piracy, the men will face a mandatory penalty of life in prison. Trials are scheduled for September and October, although the new indictments against the Ashland defendants may delay the court proceedings.

Lawyers for both groups of Somalis say that there was “no conceivable way” that their clients, piloting such a small skiff, could possible have pirated the heavily armed Navy frigates, each manned by a crew of a hundred trained sailors. Both the Nicholas and the Ashland are based in Virginia, and were part of an international flotilla that was intended to protect shipping lanes.

 

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