A Somali pirate who kidnapped and brutalized the captain of a US-flagged merchant ship off the coast of Africa in 2009 was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison by an emotional judge who told him he deserved a stiff punishment for leading a crew of armed bandits bent on committing “depraved acts.”
US District Judge Loretta Preska got emotional on Wednesday as she read at length from letters written by Captain Richard Phillips and traumatized sailors who were aboard the cargo vessel commandeered by Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse.
The recent spate of piracy on the Indian Ocean and elsewhere “is not a Disneyland-esque problem,” she quoted Phillips, of Vermont, as saying. “These are not Johnny Depps. They threaten seamen’s lives, repeatedly ... They deprive us of the rights that they themselves complain about.”
Another officer from the ship, Colin Wright, appeared in person to urge the judge to impose a lengthy term. He recalled being shot at and held at gunpoint by Muse and three other pirates.
“What happened to us was terrible,” said Wright, 44, of Texas. “I’m not the same person I was and I never will be.”
Muse pleaded guilty last year to hijacking, kidnapping and -hostage-taking charges. Before he was -sentenced, he apologized to the victims, claiming he was a desperate, small-time player in a Somali piracy syndicate that has collected millions of dollars in ransoms.
Preska imposed the maximum prison sentence of 33 years, nine months. She noted that prosecutors had described the pirates as experienced, coordinated and sadistic — even playing Russian roulette with their hostages — during the five-day siege of the Maersk Alabama.