US trial for Somali 'pirate' begins

2012-04-19 12:46
Norfolk - The attorney for a Somali man accused of piracy told jurors at trial on Wednesday that his client never agreed to negotiate the release of four Americans killed aboard a sailing yacht and he was merely acting as a mediator aboard a hijacked German vessel where hostages were tortured by pirates.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin faces piracy, hostage-taking and several other federal charges for his alleged role in the hijacking of a German merchant ship in 2010 as well as that of an American yacht off Africa in 2011.

Prosecutors say Shibin was part of a network of upper echelon pirates connected to wealthy financiers who didn't go out with raiding parties seeking ships to hijack. Instead, they say, he was called in to begin negotiations once a ship had been seized and was in Somali waters.

Federal prosecutors said Shibin researched the captured ships and hostages online to determine the size of a ransom to seek and find contact information for a ship's owner and hostages' relatives. The prosecutors say Shibin is considered the highest-ranking pirate the U.S. has captured and brought to trial.

Assistant US Attorney Benjamin Hatch said in opening statements that Shibin was able to secure a $5m ransom for the German ship Marida Marguerite and its 22 member multi-national crew.

 He also said he was the person identified by other pirates as responsible for negotiating the release of the Americans onboard the sailing vessel Quest — though negotiations didn't ensue because one of the pirates mistakenly broke the ship's satellite phone out at sea.

In that case, 11 men who boarded the boat pleaded guilty to piracy and have been sentenced to life in prison. Three others charged with murder are awaiting trial.

The owners of the Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, California, and friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were the first US citizens killed in pirate attacks plaguing the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean despite regular international patrols by warships.

They had been sailing around the world when their ship was boarded by 19 men about 1 448km from Somalia. Their boarded yacht was eventually spotted by a plane and the USS Enterprise Strike Group then shadowed the Quest for days amid efforts to secure the Americans' release.

multiple conspiracy charges

Hatch said the destroyer USS Sterett was attempting to manoeuvre between the hijacked yacht and the Somali coast when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at it, and gunfire onboard the yacht was heard shortly after. By the time Navy SEALs reached the Quest, all four Americans had been shot, Hatch said.

Shibin's court-appointed attorney, James Broccoletti told jurors during opening arguments that the Americans' yacht never should have been hijacked and what happened to the Americans was terrible. But in the case of the Quest, he noted that Shibin never left Somalia. That's important because he contends that unless Shibin committed robbery at sea, he can't be convicted of piracy. Prosecutors contend piracy as defined by 'the law of nations' involves a broader definition.

If convicted of piracy involving either ship, Shibin faces a mandatory life sentence.

Broccoletti said the multiple conspiracy charges against Shibin don't apply because although Shibin had been contacted about serving as the Americans' hostage negotiator, he didn't agree to do it.

In the case of the German ship, Broccoletti said that Shibin had been trying to work as a freelance journalist covering piracy after he had been laid off from an oil company as a translator and dispatcher. He speaks English, Somali, Italian and Arabic. He said Shibin had been contacted about helping the hostages because of his skills and knowledge.

 Once onboard, he said Shibin was unable to leave the ship and was treated just as poorly as some of the hostages at times. He said Shibin made a mistake when he accepted $30 000 for his time on board the ship following the release of the hostages.

During testimony Wednesday, Ukranian crewmember Oleg Dereglazov of the captured German ship said Shibin behaved like a pirate leader, ate heavily while on board and got the first choice of a leafy drug, khat, that pirates chewed daily during the eight-month ordeal.

Dereglazov also said he was tortured several times, including being suspended from a meat hook in the ship's freezer. A photo showed to jurors also showed scars on Dereglazov's arms from when his feet and hands were tied together for six hours. Dereglazov said he was tortured because Shibin and the other pirates demanded he tell them were extra fuel reserves were stored aboard, although he said there were no added stocks. He said he was also tortured to desalinate water for other pirate ships.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  somalia  |  east africa  |  somali pirates

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Africa: Land of Billionaires!

Find out who are the richest of the richest in Africa!

Jurassic World trailer is epic!
Best bro movies 2014
Every man should be able to do these three things
Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Account Manager - ICT/Telecommunications

Cape Town
Teleresources Cape Town

Senior Tax Consultant: International Tax

Cape Town CBD
Network Finance Sunninghill
R380 000 - R480 000 Per Year

.Net Developer

Cape Town Southern Suburbs
Communicate Cape Town IT
R26 000 - R36 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Hot festive offers at!

Hurry! Stocks are limited. Don’t miss out. Shop Now!

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


You may feel divided. Conflict between mind and emotions can create tension or indecision. This could lead to stressful more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.