US fed­eral ap­peals court up­holds con­vic­tions of two So­mali pi­rates


Two So­mali pi­rates con­victed in the shoot­ing deaths of four Amer­i­cans aboard a yacht off the coast of Africa got a fair trial, a fed­eral ap­peals court ruled Fri­day.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U. S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals unan­i­mously up­held the con­vic­tions of Abukar Os­man Beyle and Shani Nu­rani Shiekh Abrar, who each re­ceived 21 life sen­tences.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors de­clined to com­ment. De­fense at­tor­neys did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to mes­sages from The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Beyle and Abrar were among 19 men who boarded the 58-foot (18-me­ter) Quest in hopes of hold­ing the Amer­i­cans for ran­som. The plan fell apart af­ter the U.S. Navy in­ter­vened, determined to keep the sail­boat in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters and pre­vent it from reach­ing So­mali ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters.

A pirate first fired a rocket-pro­pelled grenade to­ward a Navy de­stroyer and missed. That was fol- lowed by a hail of bul­lets and the shoot­ings of the Amer­i­cans: yacht own­ers Jean and Scott Adam and their friends, Bob Rig­gle and Phyl­lis Macay. Four pi­rates also died.

Beyle and Abrar were each con­victed on 26 counts. Abrar sought dis­missal of the en­tire in­dict­ment, while Beyle chal­lenged only his mur­der and firearms con­vic­tions — not the piracy counts.

In his ap­peal, Abrar ar­gued that he was im­prop­erly pre­vented from pre­sent­ing ev­i­dence that he was in­vited aboard the pi­rates’ ves­sel to do me­chan­i­cal work be­fore be­ing forced to join in the at­tempted ab­duc­tion of the Amer­i­cans. He claimed he was im­prop­erly pre­vented from pro­duc­ing wit­nesses who could cor­rob­o­rate his story.

“Sig­nif­i­cantly, we do not even know whether the wit­nesses prof­fered by Abrar ac­tu­ally ex­ist,” ap­peals court Judge J. Harvie Wilkin­son III wrote. He noted that Abrar’s own in­ves­ti­ga­tors trav­eled to So­ma­lia “but failed to ob­tain the co­op­er­a­tion of any wit­nesses.”

Wilkin­son said the trial judge also in­structed the jury on Abrar’s duress de­fense, de­spite the lack of ev­i­dence and over the ob­jec­tions of pros­e­cu­tors.

“De­spite the op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded to Abrar, the weight of the ev­i­dence against him was sim­ply over­whelm­ing — and vir­tu­ally un­con­tro­verted,” the judge wrote.

The court also found no merit in Beyle’s claim that the U.S. l acked j uris­dic­tion be­cause the killings oc­curred within a 200- mile ( 320- kilo­me­ter) zone that So­ma­lia claims as ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters. The court said in­ter­na­tional law im­poses a 12- mile (20-kilo­me­ter) limit on ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters, although some eco­nomic rights do ex­tend out to 200 miles (320 kilo­me­ters).

“Any al­lo­ca­tion of eco­nomic rights, how­ever, is a far cry from con­fer­ring on a na­tion the ex­clu­sive author­ity en­demic to sovereignty to de­fine and pun­ish crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tions,” Wilkin­son wrote.

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