Piracy Charges Brought Against Somali Man in Maersk Alabama Case

By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on April 21, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw has obtained a copy of the charges brought against the Somali man accused in the Maersk Alabama cargo ship hijacking that ultimately ended with the dramatic rescue of the ship's captain, Captain Richard Phillips. The alleged pirate, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, was according to the charges "the first pirate to board the Maersk Alabama," and he fired his gun at Captain Richard Phillips.

Amongst other things, the indictment charges Muse with "piracy as defined by the law of nations" and elaborated on the charge stating that Muse "unlawfully, willfully and knowingly seized and robbed, and aided and abetted the seizure and robbery" of the Maersk Alabama. Federal conspiracy, hijacking, firearm, and kidnapping charges were also brought against Muse.

The charges give some in depth details into the hijacking of the Maersk. For example, Muse allegedly "told the Captain to stop the ship...conducted himself as the leader of the pirates," and also demanded money from Captain Phillips. The Captain reportedly gave Muse and two other pirates approximately $30,000 in cash from the ship's safe. The charges also describe Phillips' ill-fated escape attempt, his recapture, and beating.

A CNN report on the case raised questions regarding Muse's age, considering that his parents claimed he was 15 years old. However, the judge today ruled that he could be tried as an adult.

Also, for anyone wondering, under federal law:

"Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life." (Emphasis added)

Copied to clipboard