“Today marks the longest sentence ever given to a pirate in U.S. court, following the first time in over 190 years that an American jury has convicted a defendant of piracy,” Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. “Today’s sentences should send a clear message to those who attempt to engage in piracy: Armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels carry severe consequences in U.S. courts.”
In November, a federal jury in Virginia convicted the Somali men — Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher and Abdi Mohammed Umar — of 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.
Citing evidence and trial testimony, the statement said the five men left Somalia in three vessels — two small ones and a larger one — looking for a merchant ship to pirate. On April 1, 2010, Hasan, Ali and Dire boarded one of the smaller boats and set out to pirate what they believed to be a merchant ship, while Gurewardher and Umar remained on the large ship, the statement said.