NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Eleven Somali nationals accused in separate pirate attacks onU.S. Navy ships in waters off Africa pleaded not guilty Wednesdayto a new government indictment.
Judges scheduled Oct. 19 and Nov. 9 trial dates for the twogroups of defendants, who are accused in April attacks on twoVirginia-based ships patrolling pirate-infested waters offAfrica.
The men, who have been held in a Norfolk-area jail since theirarrival in Virginia in April, were ordered held without bail untiltheir trials.
The superseding indictment returned by grand jurors addsadditional weapons charges to the initial indictment, unsealed whenthe men were brought to Norfolk for prosecution. The most seriouscharge of piracy carries a mandatory life term.
The expanded charges claim some of the men had arocket-propelled grenade launcher and assaulted federal officersduring the alleged attacks.
The six defendants in the alleged attack on the USS Ashland werecaptured in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia, where the Navy ships werepart of an international flotilla protecting shipping lanes.
In the encounter with the USS Nicholas, the five defendants werecaptured after an exchange of fire with the crew of the frigate,west of the Seychelles.
Attorneys for the defendants have previously filed motions todismiss the piracy charges, claiming the men never seized the Navyships, and one attorney has sought to move the trial out of Norfolkbecause of its big military presence.
Naval Station Norfolk is the world's largest naval base.
A number of other motions accuse the government of not readingthe defendants their rights and destroying evidence -- a skiff usedin one of the alleged attacks.
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