Somali Men Plead Not Guilty in Virginia Court Over Navy Pirate Attacks

Ten Somali men pleaded not guilty to federal allegations of piracy in connection with attacks on U.S. Navy ships off the coast of Africa.

The men, captured after exchanging fire with Navy vessels in African waters, faced charges of piracy, conspiracy and assault with a dangerous weapon yesterday in federal court in Norfolk, Virginia. Nine pleaded not guilty, while another had done so earlier in the week. The hearing for an additional defendant will be held May 6, said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The men were denied bail, Carr said.

Navy personnel captured five of the men March 31 after they fired on the frigate USS Nicholas off Seychelles, according to court papers. The other six were taken into custody after they allegedly attacked the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland on April 10 off the coast of Djibouti.

The two separate trials have been scheduled for July 6. The U.S. and its allies agreed this year to consider setting up a system under which suspected pirates could face trials and prison terms outside their home countries. Some countries have been reluctant to bring cases against piracy suspects because of jurisdictional questions.

To contact the reporters on this story: William McQuillen in Washington at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net.

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