Not guilty verdict in piracy case

A federal jury Tuesday found a Somali man who acted as a negotiator for pirates aboard a hijacked ship not guilty of piracy, but had not yet reached a verdict on two lesser charges.

AP NewsBreak: Not guilty verdict in piracy case

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal jury Tuesday found a Somali man who acted as a negotiator for pirates aboard a hijacked ship not guilty of piracy, but had not yet reached a verdict on two lesser charges.

Ali Mohamed Ali, 51, who would have faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted of piracy, smiled and embraced one of his lawyers after the verdict was announced. He then removed his glasses and dabbed his eyes. A friend in the courtroom sobbed. Ali has been held in a D.C. jail for more than 2 ½ years.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle told jurors to continue deliberating on two remaining charges of hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking. Both of those charges carry potential, but not mandatory life sentences, and Ali is unlikely to receive a life sentence even if the jury convicts him on those charges.

Ali negotiated a ransom for Somali pirates during a 2008 pirate takeover of a Danish merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden. At the time of his 2011 arrest, he was the education minister in Somaliland, a breakaway region of Somalia, but he has spent most of his adult life in the United States.

Pirates seized the M/V CEC Future in November 2008, and Ali boarded the boat a couple of days later. An English speaker, he communicated the demands of the pirates with officials from Clipper Group, the ship’s owner. The pirates initially demanded a $7 million ransom, but settled for $1.7 million at the end of the more than two-month long siege.

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Source: Associated Press.

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