Interesting New D.C. Circuit Piracy Case

It’s United States v. Ali (D.C. Cir. June 11, 2013), and it cites an article by our own Eugene Kontorovich. Here’s the introduction:

Ali Mohamed Ali, a Somali national, helped negotiate the ransom of a merchant vessel and its crew after they were captured by marauders in the Gulf of Aden. Though he claims merely to have defused a tense situation, the government believes he was in cahoots with these brigands from the very start. Ali eventually made his way to the United States, where he was arrested and indicted for conspiring to commit and aiding and abetting two offenses: piracy on the high seas and hostage taking.

The government says Ali is a pirate; he protests that he is not. Though a trial will determine whether he is in fact a pirate, the question before us is whether the government’s allegations are legally sufficient. And the answer to that question is complicated by a factor the district court deemed critical: Ali’s alleged involvement was limited to acts he committed on land and in territorial waters — not upon the high seas. Thus, the district court restricted the charge of aiding and abetting piracy to his conduct on the high seas and dismissed the charge of conspiracy to commit piracy. Eventually, the district court also dismissed the hostage taking charges, concluding that prosecuting him for his acts abroad would violate his right to due process. On appeal, we affirm dismissal of the charge of conspiracy to commit piracy. We reverse, however, the district court’s dismissal of the hostage taking charges, as well as its decision to limit the aiding and abetting piracy charge.