US Court Affirms Life Sentences for Somali Pirates

The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down an appeal from two Somali men who were convicted of abducting and killing four US citizens in 2011, for which they received multiple life sentences.

The appellants – Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar – were each convicted on twenty-six criminal counts arising from the armed abduction and murder of four US citizens on an American yacht off the coast of Somalia.

Beyle and Abrar challenged their respective convictions on separate grounds. Beyle argues that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the murder and firearms charges against him because the Americans were not killed on the ”high seas.”

Abrar, who maintains that he was kidnapped before the piracy operation, contends that he was unable to present certain witnesses who could have corroborated his duress defense.

The Court concluded, however, that the site of the murders, thirty to forty nautical miles from the Somali coast, lay on the high seas and thus beyond the territorial sea of any nation.

The Court also decided that Abrar was not denied his rights to due process and to present witnesses material to his defense.

Beyle and Abrar were part of a group of nineteen pirates who seized the yacht and captured the four Americans on board.

The pirates headed for Somalia, but were intercepted by the United States Navy.

During a final confrontation with the Navy, Beyle, Abrar, and another pirate shot and killed the four American hostages. The Navy secured the boat and apprehended the surviving pirates, who were transported to the United States to face criminal charges.

After a weekslong trial, a jury convicted Beyle and Abrar on all counts.

Five pirates were killed in the confrontation. The remaining 11 apprehended pirates pleaded guilty and received multiple life sentences.




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