Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, the surviving Somali pirate of the Maersk Alabama incident has been sentenced to 34 years and 5 years probation. Yeah, what is with the five years probation. Well, that is what most federal criminal defendants get, usually 3 or 5 years. For what that is worth as federal probation officers don't usually follow these guys too closely.
MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal judge tearfully read victims letters on Wednesday before sentencing Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse to 405 months in a federal prison, the maximum penalty the law allowed, for leading the April 8, 2009, hijackings of the Maersk Alabama container ship in the Indian Ocean.
Muse was the sole survivor of the four-member Somali pirate crew that attacked a U.S. cargo ship and abducted its captain. Remarkably youthful and underweight in appearance, Muse, who is thought to be in his late teens, appeared contrite during the sentencing hearing.
He pleaded guilty in May two counts each of hijacking, kidnapping and hostage taking.
Prosecutors said Muse was the leader of the pirates and among the first to storm the Maersk Alabama after shooting at the container ship from their boat. Once Muse boarded the ship, a crew member lunged out of hiding to tackle and subdue him.
The rest of the pirates took the ship's captain, Richard Phillips, hostage for four days, after offering to leave the Maersk in exchange for a lifeboat and Muse, who was briefly held in the ship's safe room with his hands bound by wire.
Prosecutors said Muse distributed $30,000 in cash taken from the Maersk to the other pirates on the lifeboat. The U.S. Navy took Muse into custody when Muse thought he was negotiating the release of the captain, as SEALs killed the other pirates and rescued Capt. Phillips.
"I am sorry very much about what happened to the victims who were in the ship," said Muse, dressed in a green long-sleeved shirt and khaki pants at the sentencing hearing. "I ask for forgiveness to all the people who I harmed and to the U.S. government."
Colin Wright, one of Muse's victims, advocated for more than 700 merchant marines still in captivity off the coast of Somalia and blasted the ship's captain for steering the crew into pirate-infested waters.
Wright, a third officer aboard the Maersk, said that Muse and his companions kept his shipmates locked in a 130 to 140 degree room near the equator, and they were barely able to walk when the were released."
Muse's prison term, which spans more than 33 years, ensures that when he is released from prison, he will be older than the average life expectancy of a Somali man, Muse's federal defender Fiona Doherty said. She added that there will be "no chance" that his parents, still living in Somalia, will be alive when he gets out.
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, moved to tears by the letters of the hijacking's victims, said that she grounded her top-line sentence on the "extreme level of violence and sadism" that Muse showed aboard one of the ships.
"He relished in the suffering of his victims," Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Robert McGuire said.
Although Muse was very thin, one of his victims said in an interview following the sentencing that he appeared to have "gained weight."
Neither the federal judge nor the prosecutor was moved by Doherty's remarks about Muse's upbringing amid crushing poverty, drought, hunger and government-sanctioned criminality pervasive in Somalia.
Doherty said that birth records in Somalia were obliterated by years of civil war, and that Somalia has topped Foreign Policy's failed states list for three years.
Dental treatment Muse received at the Manhattan Detention Center confirmed that Muse grew up with "severe" and "acute" malnutrition in Puntland, an autonomous region of Somalia, Doherty said. She added that seven of his teeth have been removed, and two more must be extracted.
Doherty said the dental work also corroborated Muse's parents' statements that their child is quite young: The defense contends that he was 16 years old when he led the hijacking, but the prosecutor said that Muse lied about his age and was prosecuted as an adult.
Muse gave the government "many ages" and "used his youthful appearance" to his advantage, McGuire said.
A defense sentencing memo said that Muse was abused by his father and left home for days after being tied to a tree and told he would be eaten by a lion.
Doherty argued that Muse was driven to piracy by his poverty. She referred to a study by Prof. Lee Cassanelli that argued that Puntland officials provided tacit sanctioning and encouragement for pirate networks in exchange for bribes.
McGuire, the prosecutor, played down the circumstances of Muse's childhood and emphasized "his choices and his actions."
Muse and his "gang" had the option to leave with tens of thousands of dollars from the ship's safe, but he insisted on multimillion dollar ransoms, McGuire said.
Doherty countered that a Somali elder, who was a contact of the U.S. Navy, said that naval officers shot and killed Muse's companions while they were trying to surrender.
McGuire strongly denied that, saying that Muse and his companions "forced the Navy to be heroes on that day, and heroes they were."
Doherty also added that Muse tried to commit suicide multiple times in prison, and was diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder and depression while being held in isolation at Manhattan Detention Center.
McGuire said that Muse "repeatedly boasted that he was the leader," and the government's sentencing memo makes repeated reference to Muse laughing during interrogations.
"It will be his voice that [the victims] hear, and it will be his laugh that will haunt them," McGuire said.
Although Muse led the operation, Doherty said to depict him as a ringleader "flies in the face" of how experts say modern piracy operates.
"I was recruited by individuals who were smarter than me," Muse said, through a court translator.
Wright, the Maersk crew member who survived the hijacking, agreed with the federal prosecutor that the sailors were "defenseless," provided no security and given only pocket knives to protect themselves against armed pirates.
He claims Capt. Richard Phillips put the crew in a "very bad situation" by ignoring three emails telling him to keep a 600-mile distance from the Somali coast. At least one Maersk crew member has sued the ship and Waterman Steamship for risking the lives of their employees.
Judge Preska's voice cracked several times while reading letters from the victims. One letter said that piracy is nothing like its Disney depictions.
Heather Cronan, a wife of a third captain, wrote to Muse: "The unimaginable struggles of Somalia are not my fault."
John Cronan's letter pointed out that the ship was delivering food aid.
Preska's wavered as she read Cronan's statement.
"I held my daughter's picture in the dark, praying I'd have the opportunity to tell [my children] I love them one last time," Cronan wrote.
Judge Preska said that Muse called Capt. Phillips "stick-mouth" because Muse gagged him with a stick after the captain tried to chew through his constraints.
Muse and his companions also held a mock execution for Capt. Phillips, Preska said.
In addition to his 405-month sentence, Preska imposed five years of supervised release and $550,000 in restitution.
"For five days that must have seemed like an eternity to his victims, Abduwali Abukhadir Muse terrorized the captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Now he will pay for those five days and the events leading up to them. Today's sentence makes it clear that piracy on the high seas is a crime against the international community that will not be tolerated."
Before imposing her sentence, Preska said that the most recent report noted 111 incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia, about a 200 percent increase from the previous year.
What many do not know is that the Bush Regime some years ago stopped deporting Somali nationals to Somalia after a Federal District Court Judge ruled such deportations illegal. The theory was that Somalia had no government, so we could not deport people to a country without a government. The Bush Regime in its usual weak-kneed response failed to appeal such decision in a timely manner, or, as it should have done, just deport the alien anyway, as the District Judge had no authority to determine the nature of the Somali polity or any authority over a lawful deportation. There is no Federal law that allows District Court judges, or any Article III judge, to make such a determination. The foreign state or lack there of is of no import to the Immigration and Nationality Act which governs deportation and there is no clause therein stating that an alien cannot be deported to a nation state without a functioning government.
But the Obama Regime continues the Bush Regime policy of not deporting Somalis. And Muse will be a future beneficiary of that policy. In less than 34 years and six months, he will be the newest immigrant on welfare. Yes, less than 34 years as well as the six months he has to serve in prison until a court orders his release because the executive branch will not deport him to Somalia. While the Federal prison system does not have probation as in early release from a sentence, it does have 15% credit for time served on good behavior. So, in about 30 years Muse will be out on the streets, all thanks to a lawless, conniving District Court judge who love illegal aliens from Somalia and wants his own immigration policy, a feckless Bush Regime and an Obama Regime who is obviously sympathetic to Muslims from East Africa...all to our detriment. I wonder how many people he will kill, rob, or rape when he is released.
On September 17, 2003 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a January decision that effectively bans the removal of Somalis to their country of origin.This ruling affects more than 2,700 Somalis in the United States who are facing deportation.The ruling settles—at least temporarily—the uncertainty that ensued following an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in May, when a three-judge panel ruled that the United States could deport Keyse Jama, a Minnesota Somali man, back to Somalia.At the time, it was unclear whether the decision would have broader consequences for other Somalis in removal proceedings in the United States.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling overturned an earlier decision by Minnesota District Judge John Tunheim, which stated that federal statutes prohibited Jama’s deportation in the absence of a functioning Somali government.This ruling provided the basis for a class-action suit filed in November by Perkins Coie, a Seattle-based law firm, which sought to impose a nationwide ban on Somali deportation.The Western District of Washington Court Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle ruled in favor of the deportation ban in January.
The most recent opinion by Ninth Circuit Court in September found that the U.S. deportation statute required acceptance by the government of the country to which an alien would be deported.The ruling came as a relief to many Somalis residing in the United Sates and represents an important victory for immigrants’ rights.
Hundreds of Somalis residing in the United States have already been returned to their homeland.Between 1997 and 2002, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (now divided into three agencies administered under the Department of Homeland Security) deported some 200 Somalis, according to an INS document released in November 2002.
In February 2002, roughly a year before Western District of Washington Court Judge Marsha Pechman decided to ban Somali deportation, the United States and Canada deported more than 30 Somalis in a joint operation.At the time, immigration officers transported the deportees from their homes and detention centers across the United States and Canada to Niagara Falls before transporting them on a chartered flight to the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Immigration service agents left the deportees in a hotel in Mogadishu.Many did not know the capitol city any more than they knew the U.S. cities they had arrived in more than a decade ago.
Protracted civil conflict has mired Somalia in political turmoil since 1991, leaving the failed state without a functioning government for more than a decade.Fighting between rival, clan-based factions and drought–induced food shortages have claimed over a half million lives, displaced hundreds of thousands of Somalis internally, and forced hundreds of thousands more to flee to approximately two dozen countries, including the United States.
The security situation in Somalia remains tenuous despite continued efforts to install a new transitional governing body and stabilize the country.Even in Somaliland, which declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 and has enjoyed a measure of stability and a functioning government, incidents of violence have grown more frequent and security for foreigners has deteriorated.
In October, Italian aid worker Annalena Tonelli was fatally shot in her home in Borama.In another incident, an unidentified gunman shot two British teachers working in a school compound.The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator condemned the murder of the two British international aid workers, saying that such acts of violence not only threatened the lives of aid workers, but also jeopardized Somalis’ access to aid.
The 2002 U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices reported that Somali UN workers were frequently kidnapped for ransom in Mogadishu, and numerous civilians were killed in clashes between factions in the capital.Many of those knowledgeable of the human rights situation in Somalia feared that Somalis removed from the United States to their home country would face accusations of espionage or fall victim to kidnapping and extortion, possibly resulting in death.
In May 2002, the body of a Somali man recently deported from the United States was discovered near a Mogadishu factory.According to reports, the man had been kidnapped the previous evening.
The Ninth Circuit ruling provides some relief, but the future remains uncertain for Somalis facing deportation.The U.S. government will likely appeal the decision to a larger group of judges on the Ninth Circuit Court or to the U.S. Supreme Court.Furthermore, while the class action lawsuit prohibits the deportation to Somalia of people living anywhere in the United States, it excludes those Somalis who have previously filed petitions challenging the legality of their removal under the federal statute that requires acceptance by the country of removal. Finally, while the ruling also upheld the decision to release four Somalis who had previously been detained by the Immigration Service in Washington State, the ruling does not extend to release all Somali class members who are being detained.
Authorities released two Somali detainees, Issak Abdull and Ali Farah, from detention in Louisiana on October 23.A third Somali man remains in custody.The three Somali detainees filed petitions in mid-November 2002 that were still pending when Judge Pechman issued her ruling in January.
Some Somalis may still be held in immigration detention in locations throughout the United States.The Immigration Service has not been forthcoming with information regarding class members, despite repeated requests. A declaration submitted to Judge Pechman in January 2003 by David Venturella, Deputy Director for Detention and Removal Operations at the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE), indicated that there are over forty Somali detainees in roughly a dozen Service Districts in the United States.Venturella’s declaration did not provide information such as names and locations of the detainees.
Many Somalis in detention may not be aware of Judge Pechman’s ruling, which prohibits the government from indefinitely detaining people who face deportation but whose countries of origin will not accept them.Once Somalis in detention learn of the suit, they may be able to obtain their release. However, the Bureau of Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s refusal to provide the names and locations of the detainees impedes advocates’ efforts to seek release for Somali detainees.