RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Piracy charges against six Somali nationals should be dismissedbecause the defendants did not take over or rob the U.S. Navy shipthey are accused of attacking, lawyers for the men argue.
The defendants are being held for trial in Norfolk on piracy andother charges related to an April 10 attack on the USS Ashland inthe Gulf of Aden off Somalia's pirate-infested coast. Their skiffwas destroyed during the encounter.
"The parties dispute what prompted the USS Ashland to destroythe small vessel," the attorneys argued in a motion filed in U.S.District Court in Norfolk. "But there is absolutely no dispute thatthe defendants did not take control of the USS Ashland, did notboard her, and did not successfully obtain anything of value fromher."
The motion cites an 1820 court case that defines piracy as theseizing and robbing of a vessel at sea. The attorneys said there isno evidence the six men took control of or robbed the ship.
The government said Thursday it would respond to the motion incourt.
The six defendants accused in the attack on the amphibious docklanding ship are among 11 Somali men captured by the Navy off thecoast of Africa. Five were caught March 31 after the frigate USSNicholas exchanged fire with a suspected pirate vessel west of theSeychelles.
Each man is charged with piracy, attacks to plunder a vessel,assault with a dangerous weapon and other weapons counts. Piracycarries a mandatory life sentence. All 11 have pleaded notguilty.
The Ashland and Nicholas, both based in Virginia within 20 milesof the courthouse, were part of an international flotillaprotecting shipping in the region.
The 11 had been held on U.S. ships for weeks as officialsdecided whether and where they could be prosecuted. They settled onNorfolk.
The motion to dismiss was among several filed by a Wednesdaydeadline. One attorney also asked to move the trial, saying a fairjury couldn't be seated in the Navy town of Norfolk. Another statesthe men who were in the skiff destroyed by the Ashland wereferrying refugees and were not engaged in piracy.
The six accused in the Ashland attack are scheduled to be triedOct. 19. The trial of the accused Nicholas pirates is scheduled tobegin Sept. 8, also in Norfolk.
The defendants are being held in a regional jail outsideNorfolk.
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