Two Somali men challenging their conviction for piracy and murder have had their appeal denied.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused the appeal made by Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar that their crimes weren’t committed in international waters and therefore should not be subject to international law.
The two men were part of a team of men that killed four U.S. citizens on the sailing yacht Quest in the Arabian Sea in February 2011.
Four of the pirates were killed when the vessel was stormed by Navy Seals, two from the discharge of their own weapons. Another 14 were taken to the U.S. to stand trial, with 11 of those pleading guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment,
Lawyers for Beyle and Abrar have appealed the sentencing, saying that because the crime was committed within 40 miles of Somali’s coast, international law did not apply.
However, the court determined that Somali territorial seas extend to 12 nautical miles, and beyond that, the area is considered to be the high seas.
The SY Quest was captured on February, 18 2011 by nineteen pirates who then attempted to sail the yacht towards Puntland.
The aircraft carrier Enterprise, guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the guided missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Bulkeley were sent to the area and arrived several days later.
Captain Dee Mewbourne, of the Enterprise, started negotiations with the pirates and two Somalis went on board the Sterett. On February 22, while negotiations were still underway, a pirate on board the Quest fired a rocket propelled grenade at the Sterett from 600 yards away.
It missed, but almost immediately afterward gunfire was heard on the yacht so a boarding party was sent in. A brief skirmish occurred. 13 pirates surrendered and were taken into custody.
After boarding, the navy personnel discovered the bodies of Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle, of Seattle and the Quest ‘s owners, Jean and Scott Adam of California.
On July 8, 2013 Ahmed Muse Salad, 27, Abukar Osman Beyle, 33, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 31, those who actually killed the hostages, were found guilty of piracy, murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, violence against maritime navigation, conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death and multiple firearms offenses.
All three were sentenced in November 2013, and all received 21 life sentences, 19 consecutive life sentences and two concurrent life sentences and 30 years consecutive.
The court document is available here.