February 24, 2011

"Option is extraditing the men to the U.S."

Los Angeles Times "Legal experts predicted that the Justice Department would move to bring the pirates to the U.S. for trial." By Edmund Sanders

'"The fact that there are four dead Americans will make the U.S. more interested in taking this case, rather than referring it to a foreign country," said Michael Passman, a Chicago attorney who has written about piracy law. "The U.S. may try to use this case as an example to show that they remain committed to anti-piracy."

'In recent years, the U.S. has tried several Somali pirates who have been captured as part of an international campaign to halt the surge in hijackings off Somalia's coast.

'Last week, a Somali man who pleaded guilty to the April 2009 attack against the Maersk Alabama container ship in the Indian Ocean received more than 33 years in a U.S. prison.

'Under federal law, the maximum penalty for piracy is life imprisonment, but because the hijacking ended in hostage fatalities — a rarity in Somali pirate attacks — U.S. prosecutors might opt for murder charges instead, Passman said.

'"This happened in international waters, so they have to go somewhere," said Lt. Col. Mike Lawhorn, spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Florida. "The fact that this involved Americans gives us some jurisdiction. We have the right to protect our own citizens."'

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