Somalia criticises US for putting pirate on trial

Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, pictured in April Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse was said to be the ringleader of a gang of four pirates

A Somali official has criticised the US for prosecuting a man over a piracy incident off the Horn of Africa.

Jamaal Cumar, a US-based Somali official, told the BBC there were "serious concerns" over jurisdiction in the case of Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse.

Mr Cumar questioned the authority of any foreign country to try Somali pirates active off East Africa.

Muse, from Somalia, faces 27 years in a US jail after admitting an attack on the Maersk Alabama in April 2009.

He was captured by the US Navy, whose sharpshooters killed three other pirates trying to escape on a lifeboat, saving the captain.

He is due to be sentenced in October.

On Wednesday, Muse's mother spoke to the Associated Press to appeal to US President Barack Obama to forgive her son, saying he was lured into piracy by older friends.

'Extrajudicial practice'

Mr Cumar told the BBC's Network Africa he had been trying to work out why the US would have any authority to try Muse's case and those of several other suspects in custody in the US.

"The Somali government's position has always been that we questioned the jurisdiction of this case," he said.

Crew members celebrating on the Maersk Alabama after the captain's release The Maersk Alabama was carrying aid bound for Somalia when attacked

"We felt that it was an exercise in extrajudicial practice of the law and we asked the US to return those pirates back to Somalia."

Mr Cumar says he wants a UN-backed international tribunal to deal with piracy cases.

Somali pirate suspects have been tried in various countries across the world, as Somalia has no functioning central government.

Legal experts have been struggling with the problem of where to try piracy cases for years.

Meanwhile, the European Union says it is trying find a regional solution by involving Somalia's neighbours.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, in the region highlighting the need to establish a functioning government in Mogadishu, said: "The solution to the sea is on the land."

Foreign forces have frequently caught pirates off Somalia, disarmed them and then put them back to sea because there is no local authority to deal with them.

Previous attempts to form an international tribunal have failed because of a lack of funding.

'Very sorry'

During Muse's trial in a federal court in Manhattan, prosecutors described him as a ringleader of a gang of four pirates who seized the Maersk Alabama some 450km (280 miles) off the coast of Somalia.

Court documents said Muse was the first to board the vessel, firing his AK-47 assault rifle at Captain Richard Phillips.

On Tuesday, Muse said through an interpreter: "I am very, very sorry about what we did. All of this was about the problems in Somalia."

It is said to be the first piracy trial in the US in decades.

The vessel, which was carrying food aid, was seized by the four pirates in April 2009.

Capt Phillips then told his crew to lock themselves in a cabin and surrendered himself to safeguard his men.

He was later taken hostage in an enclosed lifeboat that was soon shadowed by US warships and a helicopter.

The stand-off only ended several days later when the US Navy intervened.

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