Monday, November 4, 2013

Conference and Arrests

At the end of October the six men on trial in Spain were convicted of piracy related charges, and at the beginning of November another trial began in the USA. There was also the arrest in Belgium of Mohamed Abdi Hassan (also known as "Afweyne" or Big Mouth). Hassan was arrested at the Brussels airport on 12th October after been invited to Belgium on the ruse of becoming an advisor on a film about piracy around the Horn of Africa. Others who may be involved with piracy have also recently been invited to Belgium but there will be no actual trial of them, they are attending a conference hosted by Environmental Justice Foundation on illegal fishing. Pirate fishing around the Horn of Africa is a key focus at the November conference and countries that are criticised as not taken action against IUUs (or 'pirate' vessels) are attending. 

Spain, in publicity about the conference, is listed as one of those countries, however it was in Spain that the six men were sentenced just under a month ago - one man to 12-and-a-half years in prison and the other five to eight years in jail each. The men have been in Spain awaiting trial since October 2012 so have already served one year. In 2011 two men convicted of piracy by a Spanish court received sentences of 439 years each.

The trial in the US is of a former Washington DC resident, Ali Mohamed Ali, who is charged with helping Somali pirates who seized a Danish cargo vessel in November 2008. His defence is that he was actually working for the US as an intelligence source. Ali is charged with piracy, conspiracy, attacking a vessel and hostage-taking, and faces life in prison if convicted. He has been held in jail for two and a half years. Another person, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, charged in the American courts with negotiating was convicted in August 2012 and sentenced to "10 concurrent life sentences...two consecutive life sentences...10 years consecutive...and two 20-year sentences... and is also required to pay restitution in the amount of approximately $5,408,000US."
The event promises to offer a lively debate on where responsibilities lie in taking urgent measures to tackle IUU fishing, which costs the global economy an estimated US$ 10 to 23.5 billion and represents between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish. - See more at:

Publicity about the Environmental Justice Foundation says the conference will involved 'a lively debate on where responsibilities lie in taking urgent measures to tackle IUU fishing, which costs the global economy an estimated US$ 10 to 23.5 billion and represents between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish'.
The event promises to offer a lively debate on where responsibilities lie in taking urgent measures to tackle IUU fishing, which costs the global economy an estimated US$ 10 to 23.5 billion and represents between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish. - See more at:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

More 'Pirates' Tried

In the last months of 2012, six Somali men were taken to Spain to be tried on charges of piracy. The six were captured by the flagship of Operation OceanShield after allegedly trying to cease a Spanish tuna fishing vessel in the last weeks of October.

Two Somali men accused of piracy have already been found guilty in Spain and each received sentences of 439 years in a courtcase in May 2011.

In Malaysia, seven Somali men facing charges that carried the death penalty have been offered a plea bargain. The men were arrested in January 2011 and charged with 'firing at the Malaysian armed forces while committing a robbery' - an offence that carries the death penalty. The men have been given the option of pleading guilty to the lesser charge of 'using a weapon with the intention of preventing their arrest', a charge that carries 'only' a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

In the Seychelles three men were sentenced to 21 years each and a fourth to 14 years on piracy charges. The men were arrested by a Danish warship after they allegedly held an Iranian ship. Denmark has an agreement with both Kenya and the Seychelles that allows pirates arrested by Danish forces to be tried in either of those countries.

In Madagascar, thirteen men and one youth who were arrested in March 2011 appeared in court in November 2012 and the men received sentences of five years hard labour, the young person was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and released on bail.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Italian Court-case Ends

On 30th November an Italian court sentenced the nine Somali men on trial in Rome to between 16 and 19 years in prison for attempted kidnapping for extortion and illegal possession of firearms. But the charges of terrorism were not held. The prosecution were unable to prove any links with terrorism.

In 2011 the men had allegedly attempted to hijack an Italian-flagged cargo ship. The four teenagers arrested at the same time were tried separately as juveniles and sentenced in June to eight years in prison each.

Another trial in Italy is set to begin this week. This one is against eleven men arrested in January this year - these men were not charged with terrorism.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Some European Trials

The trial of the seven Somali men and three teenagers in Hamburg, Germany, finally come to end on Friday 19th October. They were all found guilty of 'attack on maritime traffic' and 'abduction for the purpose of blackmail' and sentenced to prison. The teenagers received sentences of two years and the adults sentences from six to seven years. 

As the time already spent in custody in Germany is taken into account for sentencing, the three teenagers do not have to return to prison (the three were released on bail in April).  Currently Germany does not deport people to Somalia, so the young men are able to stay in Hamburg.

The Hamburg trial was one of the longest in post-war Germany history - 104 days, and supposedly the first 'pirate' trial in over 400 years. It was reported on in great detail by the 'Reclaim the Seas' blog, a blog attempting to 'help make the voices of the accused heard'.

Many people argued the trial was an expensive piece of state propaganda playing with peoples' lives to justify Atalanta and Germany's role in it.

In the first days of the trial, defense lawyers issued a statement saying that "the real cause of piracy in the region was political unrest in Somalia and over-fishing of its waters by Western nations." (Spiegel Online) A further Speigel article described the case as an 'expensive farce'.

Meanwhile, in a much quicker trial lasting little more than a month - on 12th October, nine Somali men on trial in the Netherlands were convicted and sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment on charges of piracy. They were facing the possibility of life imprisonment but were found not guilty of attempted murder.

The nine men were were part of a group of 16 arrested on board an Iranian ship by Dutch marines in April 2011. Two other members of the group were killed when the Dutch boarded the ship.

The trial in Italy of nine men continues, but media reports are that it may be over before the end of the year. As reported earlier on this blog, the nine are facing not only piracy-related charges but also terrorism. The prosecution are trying to argue that the ransom money was intended for Al-Shabaab.

The four teenagers arrested at the same time as the nine men, were tried separately in a Rome juvenile court and in June were found guilty of attempted hi-jacking but not of terrorism. They were each sentenced to eight years in prison.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fishermen of Somalia

An article published this week in numerous international media, including the Huffington Post, states that piracy around the Horn of Africa is in decline. Statistics are quoted to show that piracy attacks in that region are falling, however no statistics are quoted about the forms of piracy occurring in the area - the IUUs and toxic waste dumping.

Another article by the creator of Somali Report, Robert Young Pelton, also points out that piracy is decreasing and also cites the fact that only 1% of commercial ships that travel around the Horn of Africa are attacked.

But one article published this week, Somalia's fishermen struggle to make a living from pirate-infested seas, does not appear to be getting the same amount of coverage as the above two. This article interviews the chairperson of the Banadir fishermen's union, who talks about the difficulties facing Mogadishu's fishermen - both on land and at sea. He says that although Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, they are the 'poorest fishermen in Africa'.

One fisherman in the article states, "There's no dignity in being a fisherman any more, At sea, armed men in speedboats search you because they say you look like a pirate and when you come back soldiers can shoot you if you return outside curfew hours." (The fisherman was referring to being shot at by African Union troops as he returns to port after 5pm)

There are several reasons that the fishermen of Somalia are struggling, but there can be no denying that the 'Coalition of the Willing' is a threat. Various media have reported on fishermen being killed and injured both at sea and on land, including Somali Report and Bloomberg. But not many of these cases are investigated, however in India two Italian marines have been charged with the murder of two Indian fishermen - killed on the assumption that they were pirates.

The seas around the Horn of Africa are dangerous - there are numerous navies, private security, floating armouries and mercenaries all supposedly patrolling this area to keep the international shipping lanes open. But there is neither little done to protect the fishermen and the environment from both IUUs and the dumping of toxic waste and nor is there adequate media coverage and investigation of what is happening in the waters around the Horn of Africa,

The IUUs and dumping of toxic waste needs to be stopped.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Letters to Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse

There has been a plea for letters to be sent to 15 year-old Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse imprisoned in the US. (Address below)

In May 2011, the teenager was tried as an an adult for offences related to piracy and sentenced to 33 years and nine months in prison. At the time, the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, confirmed the group that Muse was part of were "untrained teenagers with heavy weapons."  The other three teenagers in the group were killed by US snipers.

Write to Muse, the teenager jailed in the US:
Abdulwali Abukhadir Muse 70636-054
 FCI Terre Haute
 Federal Correctional Institution 
 PO Box 33
 Terre Haute, IN 47808

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Trials in Europe

In the first week of September nine men went on trial in the Netherlands, charged with piracy and attempted murder.They were the remainder of a group of 16 arrested in April 2011 after a gunfire battled with Dutch marines based on the warship Tromp. The Somali were supposedly on board an Iranian fishing vessel. Two Somali men were killed in the gun battle and buried at sea by the crew of the Tromp, seven released and the remaining nine were taken to the Netherlands.

The trial is expected to last less than a month, and if convicted the men face life imprisonment.

This is not the first courtcase in the Netherlands and it will not be the last.

The Netherlands has the dubious honour of being the first European country to try people for 'Somali' piracy - that was the trial of five men arrested in 2009, in June 2010 they were sentenced to five years imprisonment each. The next trial was in August 2011 of five men arrested in November 2010, they received sentences of between four and seven years. One of the people said he was only 13 years old; 'experts' put his age at between 14 and 15 years.

Meanwhile, the Dutch navy arrested another group of alleged Somali pirates last month in the Somalian coastal waters and the group are now in the process of being transported to Rotterdam for trial. (Another group, arrested in July by the Dutch navy, were taken to Oman for trial).

The trial in Italy of nine men is also continuing. The nine are facing not only piracy-related charges but also terrorism. The prosecution are trying to argue that the ransom money was intended for Al-Shabaab.

The four teenagers arrested at the same time as the nine men, were tried separately in a Rome juvenile court. The judge did not accept the charge of terrorism against the youth, but they were found guilty of attempted hi-jacking and were each sentenced to eight years in prison.

In Belgium, a man arrested on DNA evidence was sentenced in January this year to ten years imprisonment.

And in Germany, after a trial lasting nearly a hundred days of actual court appearances, the trial of ten people in Hamburg is nearing an end.