NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A crewmember from a German ship that was hijacked in 2010 testified Thursday that Somali pirates threatened to execute him at knifepoint, suffocated him by placing a plastic bag over his head and led him to believe the ship's captain had been killed during his eight-month ordeal.
Ukrainian Oleg Dereglazov also said one crew member had his genitals painfully tied together with plastic ties and that he was threatened with the same action if he didn't tell them where extra fuel aboard the ship was hidden, although he repeatedly told them there wasn't any.
He detailed the torture aboard the Marida Marguerite on Thursday during 53-year-old Mohammad Saaili Shibin's trial.
Shibin has been charged with piracy, hostage-taking and other federal charges in connection with the ship's hijacking. Shibin also faces charges in the hijacking of an American yacht in which all four passengers were shot and killed.
Prosecutors say Shibin's role aboard the Marida Marguerite was that of a hostage negotiator and that he briefly served as a guard.
They say Shibin never boarded the American yacht but that he was identified by other pirates as the person who would negotiate the hostages' release once they were brought back to Somalia.
Federal authorities say Shibin's role as a negotiator makes him the highest-ranking pirate they have ever arrested and brought to trial.
If convicted of piracy in either hijacking, Shibin faces a mandatory life sentence.
Shibin's court-appointed attorney, James Broccoletti, didn't dispute that Dereglazov or some of the other 22 crew members were tortured. A day earlier, Dereglazov said he was hung from a meat hook inside the ship's freezer while half-clothed and that he had also had his feet and hands tied together for hours under the hot sun.
But Broccoletti noted during questioning that Shibin wasn't present each time torture occurred. He also suggested that it wasn't Shibin who was giving the orders to torture the men.
Broccoletti has said Shibin was merely on board the ship to serve as a mediator between the pirates, the crew and the ship's owner and that he had made a mistake when accepted $30,000 for his time onboard the ship after the hostages were released. The ship was ultimately ransomed for $5 million, although Dereglazov said the pirates initially wanted $15 million for it and the 22 crew members.
Broccoletti said that some of the hostages got along well with Shibin and that he would sometimes let them use his cellphone when other pirates weren't watching. As a `gift', he let Dereglazov call his family on his birthday.
Prosecutors noted that Dereglazov kept details of what happened aboard the ship in a diary that he disguised with technical notes aboard the ship.
Broccoletti attempted to cast doubt upon Dereglazov's recollection of events and his motivation by using that same diary. He said that Dereglazov wrote that once he was released he would persecute Muslims and have no sympathy or mercy for them and that "a good Muslim is a dead Muslim." Shibin is Muslim.
Broccoletti said Dereglazov also wrote that Adolf Hitler's theory on racial superiority applied to Somalis and that they had to be destroyed.
Dereglazov said he was only referring to the Somali pirates who were treating him and his crew poorly and he said that he had worked along with Muslims since his ship had been released.
Before the pirates left his ship, he said Shibin gave a speech to the crew in which he apologized for their ordeal, but that they were pirates and that they had families, children and wives to support. He said Shibin told them it was a simple business that was going to continue.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
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