The trial of the remaining five pirates accused of mistaking the¬†U.S. Navy amphibious dock landing ship Ashland for a commercial tanker and attacking it in 2010. Initially, the trial court dismissed the charges against the defendants under the 1820 case of¬†United States v. Smith¬†‚Äî defining piracy as ‚Äúrobbery at sea‚Äù ‚Äî because the defendants never boarded the ship or attempted to steal anything. However, after the 4th Circuit endorsed the UNCLOS definition of piracy in¬†United States v. Dire, the Ashland defendants are back in court.
Here is what the Norfolk-based Virginian-Pilot¬†had to say¬†about the case:
Prosecutors argue the men were pirates who mistook the amphibious dock landing ship for a commercial vessel.
Defense attorneys, however, claim they were merely lost at sea and trying to get the ship‚Äôs attention.
A jury trial for five of the men started Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. Over the next week, prosecutors are expected to call to the stand sailors who were on the Virginia Beach-based Ashland at the time of the incident and a Somali man who was on the skiff and is now cooperating with authorities.
Jama Idle Ibrahim, also known as Jaamac Ciidle, pleaded guilty in August 2010 to attempting to plunder a vessel and two related charges. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison but could have his sentence reduced.
Due to the similarities between the case of the USS Ashland and that involving the USS Nicholas (which culminated in the¬†Dire¬†opinion), the defendants‚Äô overall prospects do not look strong.