NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Prosecutors in a piracy trial will be allowed to use a Somali man's statements that he had been asked to negotiate the release of four American hostages who were later shot and killed aboard a yacht off the coast of Africa, a federal judge in Virginia has ruled.
Mohammad Saaili Shibin's attorney wanted the comments suppressed because they were made aboard a U.S. Justice Department airplane en route from Africa to Virginia after Shibin had requested an attorney. Shibin faces piracy, hostage-taking and kidnapping charges for his role in the February hijacking of the Quest as well as the 2010 hijacking of a German merchant vessel, the Marida Marguerite.
The owners of the Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were the first U.S. citizens killed in a wave of pirate attacks that have plagued the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in recent years.
Prosecutors say the 52-year-old Shibin never boarded the Quest, but they consider him the highest-ranking pirate the U.S. has ever captured because of his role as a land-based negotiator. Eleven other men have pleaded guilty to piracy for their roles in the Quest's hijacking. Three others face murder charges.
U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar wrote Monday that Shibin voluntarily spoke with FBI agents on the plane and that he understood that he was waiving his rights each time he spoke with them. Shibin is a former translator for an oil company who speaks English and other languages.
"The evidence before the court showed that defendant had previously served as a translator, is clearly conversant in the English language, and had no trouble understanding the content of the Miranda warnings. Thus, because after receiving Miranda warnings a fourth time, defendant nonetheless executed a written waiver and agreed to speak, the court concludes that defendant's waiver of his rights was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent," Doumar wrote.
Shibin acknowledged he was approached about serving as a negotiator and translator for the American hostages, but he also said he turned the offer down after considering it for two days. Shibin's statements to the FBI included an acknowledgement that he knew of the pirates aboard the Quest and that he had used Google to research the value of the Quest and find the owner's contact information.
Shibin also acknowledged receiving $30,000 for negotiating the ransom of the Marida Marguerite, which had a crew of 19 Indians, two Bangladeshis and one Ukrainian who were held hostage for several months. Shibin is the only person the U.S. is prosecuting in that case.
His trial on charges related to the Quest and Marida Marguerite is scheduled to begin April 17.
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