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Somali Pirate Might Face Life Sentence In USA

After a month in solitary confinement, alleged pirate Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse had his day in court Thursday – a brief arraignment at which he pled not guilty to federal charges of participating in the attempted hijacking of the Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia in April.

Looking frail and downcast, Muse, wearing a dark colored smock and trousers over his orange prison garb, stood and made his plea through a translator before U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan's federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street – just across from the federal correctional facility where he has been held since he was flown to New York and transferred from U.S. Navy custody to the FBI on April 20th.

Following the hearing Muse's lawyers said that when all the evidence was presented their client would be exonerated.

“We believe that Mr. Muse will be exonerated,” said Federal Public Defender Deirdre von Durnum.

Standing outside the courthouse, Federal Public Defender Fiona Doherty reminded reporters that in its complaint the government noted that Muse had separated himself from the other hijackers of the U.S. flagged Maersk Alabama and attempted to negotiate a solution to the five day standoff during which the ship's captain was held hostage by Muse's cohort.

“Our client was the one trying to find a peaceful resolution,” she said.

Muse – whose age is unknown but who is believed by both the government and defense to be a teenager -- was indicted earlier this week on 10 counts including piracy under the law of nations, conspiracy, hostage taking, kidnapping and possession of a machine gun while seizing a ship by force. If convicted of the most serious charge, he faces a mandatory life sentence. The next scheduled court appearance is September 17th.