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20-Year Prison for Somali Pirate Kingpin, Belgian Court Rules

March 14, 2016 - 12:03:00 UTC

20 Years in Prison for Somali Pirate Kingpin, Belgian Court Rules

THE Bruges Criminal Court, sentenced, in absentia, the Somali pirate Kingpin Mohamed Abdi Hassan (60), to 20 years in prison for the hijacking of merchant vessel Pompeii. His compatriot, Mohamed Moalin-Aden (44), received five years in prison for his role in the criminal organization, but was acquitted for the hijacking of Pompeii. By an oversight of the prosecution they were not forfeited of thirteen million in profit from hijackings, writes the Belgian news outlet, Het Nieuwsblad.

On April 18, 2009 the Belgian stone-dumping vessel Pompeii was attacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Ten crew members were held hostage for more than 70 days. Eventually the hijackers were paid about two million [Euros] in ransom. Mohamed Abdi Hassan is seen by the researchers as the organizer of the hijacking. In October 2013, he was lured to our country [Belgium] for a fictional film project. At that time, Mohamed Moalin-Aden was also arrested.Somali Pirate Kingpin, Afweyne

False Start

The process got off to a false start in September 2015 when Afweyne failed to deliver documents. His lawyer Hans Rieder could indeed not see with the Public Prosecutor (OM) a lot of documents had been added to the file at the last moment.

By default it was progressed federal prosecutor twenty years in prison. The court ultimately sentenced him for [his part in] torture. At the reading of the verdict the judge noted that twenty years was the maximum sentence. The new legislation provide the maximum penalty in future cases of 40 years.

To the Dutch captain of Pompeii and his family [it was ordered] Afweyne must pay them more than 20,000 euros. The Somali pirates kingpin will almost certainly oppose the verdict. The matter will soon be re-examined.

Mohamed Moalin-Aden, nicknamed Tiiceey, the Public Prosecutor demanded a prison sentence of fifteen years. Just like the leader of a criminal organization, the federal attorney was surprised considering that there was insufficient evidence for his involvement in the hijacking of Pompeii. The court ruled that even in complicity in the hijacking of Pompeii there was no question.

Telephone Research

The prosecution mainly relied on Kenyan telephone research, which showed that Tiiceey in the period of the facts had contact with a lead negotiator of the Somali pirates. "But that was about the release of another ship, the Indian Ocean Explorer. Moreover, there is no debate about that as the governor was officially involved in the release of the ship," said Master Thomas Gillis.

The defence concluded his argument by stating that there is actually no evidence against Mohamed Moalin-Aden. "There is no forensic evidence, no financial trail and there is no recognition by the victims. At least question of reasonable doubt, but I really question the acquittal with confidence."

"On a Beer Card"

During her closing speech, federal prosecutor Marianne Cappelle stated against the culprits of hard leather in September 2015. She reproached them especially that they were out purely for profit. "Afweyne is a gangster of the worst kind. Tiiceey might not be violent, but wants to be above all rich. I grant for Afweyne ten million and three million Tiiceey in special confiscation."

The defence immediately noted that in the written claim by the OM there was no question of the confiscation. The prosecutor offered to write the amounts quickly, "if necessary on a beer card". Eventually it was agreed that at the next session, in January 2016, to provide a written claim of the confiscation. But that never happened. Therefore, the court in the judgment could not judge the profits of the Somali pirates.

Mohamed Abdi Hassan was convicted in absentia and will probably maintain opposition to his conviction. However, in a process of resistance, it is impossible to get a more severe penalty. A forfeiture will then therefore be of no question.

"Mixed Feelings"

Gillis responded moderately satisfied with the court ruling. "It's a mixed feeling, but the acquittal of Pompeii is crucial. Because that from the beginning it was still something to do. "Mohamed Moalin-Aden was supported at the hearing by his wife and several other family members. "The family is also relieved. We will discuss with the client whether it is appropriate to appeal. "

Moalin-Aden's been held in custody for two years and five months and would basically ask quickly of the sentencing court for his release.

"Political Prisoner"

Finally, the lawyers of Tiiceey noted that the Belgian court has no jurisdiction across the board. "I was surprised that they came suddenly after two years of research to say that one cannot prove the main charge, the hijacking of Pompeii. How can he then continue here as the leader of a criminal organization? I do not understand. That other ships do not have any link with Belgium," pleaded master Filip Van Hende. That argument submitted to the court by himself.

"I am a political prisoner whose liberty is sacrificed for a career. The prosecution wanted to gain international attention with the arrest of Abdi as a pirate leader. I'm just collateral damage. You will have to decide that I am innocent," Moalin-Aden himself spoke at the end of the debates.

Original source: Nieuwsblad  Belgium [Flemish language translation]

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