Piracy 2ndLd-Writethru 04-23

Somali men suspected of piracy, at right, are escorted by Kenyan police officers as they arrive at a court in Mombasa, Kenya, Thursday, April 23, 2009. Eleven men suspected of piracy made their first court appearance Thursday after being captured and handed over by French commandos. Kenya is prosecuting the suspected pirates under a deal with the European Union. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

Somali piracy suspects in Kenya court

EDS: RECASTS gras 1-3, moving higher context on second group of suspects.

AP Photo XSA106, XSA109, XSA110, XSA107, XSA108, XSA102



Associated Press Writer

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Eighteen Somali men who were brought ashore in Kenya by European navies crowded into a Mombasa courthouse Thursday to face piracy charges.

Eleven shabbily dressed men seized by French commandos in the pirate-infested seas off Somalia made their first courtroom appearance after being handed over on Wednesday. Next door, seven other suspected pirates who were turned in by German forces earlier this month awaited their own hearing.

Both groups were seized by European navies after hot pursuits and dramatic captures. The French-seized men were taken in a pre-dawn raid on April 14. The Germans captured the seven men in late March.

Magistrate Catherine Mwangi adjourned the case of the 11 until a bail hearing May 27. Until then, they will remain in a Mombasa jail. She also ordered court officials to dress them properly for their bail hearing. The men, who appeared solemn during their court appearance, wore faded sarongs, old jackets and cheap sandals. Two men wore no shoes.

"I’m giving you an order that these people be dressed properly," Mwangi told court officials.

Kenya has a deal with the European Union that allows them to try suspected pirates caught by European ships off the East African coast. Pirates have been tried in Kenya before — 10 Somali pirates were sentenced in November 2006 to seven years in prison after the U.S. Navy captured them. There also are several trials currently involving suspects handed over by Britain.

The U.S. announced in January that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Kenya to hand over any pirates it seizes to this East African nation.


A New York court is also trying its first piracy case in decades, that of a young man said to be involved in a brazen attack on the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama on April 8.

In a criminal complaint, prosecutors depicted Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse as the bold ringleader of a band of four pirates who bullied 20 crew members of the cargo ship, fired a shot at the captain and boasted of hijacking other ships.

The top count against Muse accuses him of piracy under the law of nations, a charge not used regularly since the 1800s. It carries a mandatory life sentence.

The other charges against him — discharging a firearm, conspiring to commit hostage-taking and brandishing a firearm — could be found in drug, kidnapping and conspiracy cases throughout federal courthouses in the United States. They also offer potential penalties up to life in prison.

Legal experts said the piracy statute filed against Muse has been around since 1791, but has not really been used since 1885. The law carried a mandatory death penalty until the 1900s and was last rewritten in 1948.

Muse has been charged with conspiracy to seize a ship by force, a count used only once since it was written to combat terrorism after the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.

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