Picture from US Today News.
On Monday, a U.S. federal judge ordered a Somali pirate, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, to serve twelve life sentences in prison for his role in the hijacking of a German merchant vessel and a U.S. yacht. The judge also claimed that he was lucky he did not get the death penalty, even though no death penalty-eligible charges were brought against him. Shibin declined to make any statements before he was sentenced. Shibin is considered by U.S. authorities to be the highest-ranking pirate they have ever captured. Shibin also had direct ties to those who finance pirate operations in Somalia.
There were four Americans aboard “The Quest” who were shot to death by pirates off the coast of Africa in 2011. The crew members on the other vessel were tortured to obtain higher ransom in 2010. Prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty against the three men charged with shooting the Americans. Eleven other pirates who boarded the Quest have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to life in prison.
The yacht owners, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, California, along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were the first U.S. citizens killed in a wave of pirate attacks, despite a regular patrol of international warships. Negotiations with a U.S. Navy ship were taking place when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at them and seconds later shots were fired aboard the yacht. By the time Navy SEALs boarded the boat, the Americans had already been shot to death.
U.S. authorities are hoping these sentences will send a strong message to pirates to stay away from American ships. Shibin was convicted earlier this year on the fifteen charges he faced, including piracy, kidnapping, and hostage-taking. Out of the twelve life sentences, ten of them will run concurrently while the other two were ordered to serve consecutively. Shibin was also ordered to pay in restitution in the amount of $5.4 million.
After sentencing U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride, said, “I think this case explodes the myth, if still it exists out there, that pirates are some kind of romantic swashbuckling characters from Hollywood summer movies. This case showed that pirates are brutal, greedy, reckless, desperate criminals who will kidnap, torture and ultimately kill hostages in pursuit of their financial greed”.
Should Shibin be considered for the death penalty, even though he did not technically kill anyone? Is it true that we still think of piracy as a fallacy? Has wool been pulled over our eyes from watching movies such as “Peter Pan” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”? These movies romanticize pirates and cause us to view them in an almost funny light, when in reality they are thieves and murderers. Is the fact that we do not take piracy seriously causing it to become a more severe and prevalent problem