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Monday, November 08, 2010

Somali "Pirates?" - Definition issue in new U.S. pirate trials

As set out in Federal courts in Norfolk wrestle over definition of piracy from The Virginia Pilot:
For the first time since the 19th century, piracy suspects will go on trial in a federal court in a case that legal experts see as precedent-setting.

Already there are conflicting rulings in the cases against two groups of Somali nationals charged with attacking Navy ships off the Horn of Africa earlier this year.
U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis last month upheld piracy and related charges in a 14-count indictment against the five Somalis charged in the April 1 attack on the Nicholas, a Norfolk-based frigate.

Davis' conclusion was opposite the one reached by Judge Raymond A. Jackson, sitting two floors below Davis in the same courthouse, in August in a case involving the April 10 attack on the Ashland, based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek.

Jackson determined that he must interpret the piracy statute as it was meant at the time it was enacted, which was 1819. He found, citing an 1820 Supreme Court case, that piracy is defined only as robbery at sea. Since there was no robbery of the Ashland, he threw out the piracy charge. The government appealed and the case was halted.
Dueling judicial opinions, disagreeing law professors and a bunch of thugs getting ready for trial.

What fun.

You can find the Judge Davis decision in U.S. v. Hasan here. UPDATE:My upload of a less commerical version: Hasan Piracy Op 178!                                                            

And the Judge Jackson decision in U.S. v. Said can be downloaded here.

Lots of good discussion over at Opinio Juris and at the links therein.

UPDATE: And an earlier post on the possible Said case appeal here.

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