U.S. Piracy Trial Comes to End as German Trial Begins

Closing arguments in the piracy trial of five Somali men are expected Monday. The case will then be in the hands of the jurors who will make decisions on charges including piracy, plundering and weapons possession.

The trial is the first piracy trial in the U.S. in close to two hundred years. The five men face mandatory life sentences if found guilty of attacking the USS Nicholas back in April.

Meanwhile in Germany ten Somali nationals are on trial for hijacking a German container ship, also in April. Pirates attacked the MV TAIPAN in the Gulf of Aden, during the attack crewmembers managed to lock themselves in a safe room and disable the ship’s engine, not allowing the pirates to take the ship to the Somali coast.

Dutch marines freed the ship and captured the pirates, extraditing them from the Netherlands to Germany. Five machine guns, two missile launchers and ammunition were taken as evidence.

Language barriers and proper documentation and identification are making the prosecution difficult. Suspects gave vague and often guessed answers when asked about their age, because they aren’t sure of their birth date or birth place. One suspect told the court he is 13, which would mean he would need to be released because German law only allows for the prosecution of individuals fourteen years or older. Officials believe the young man is lying as experts have placed his age between 15 and 18.

A panel of judges is still working to determine the age and names of the individuals before proceeding with the trial.

The Associated Press reports that Germany hasn’t held a piracy trial since 1624, but before then, between 1390 and 1600 at least 533 pirates were sentenced.

Somalia hasn’t had an effective government since 1991, and has become the battlegrounds of opposing clans. The poverty stricken nation has been unable to deal with the warfare, piracy, famine and disease that plague the country.

PICTURED: Armed pirates in the Indian Ocean near Somalia. After the picture was taken, the vessel's crew members opened fire on U.S. Navy ships and the ship's crew members returned fire. One suspected pirate was killed and 12 were taken into custody.