Pirate leader or kidnap victim – those are the contrasting portraits of a Somali teenager being presented by the prosecution and defence before his forthcoming trial in New York.
Either way, after a debate about whether he was 18 or not, a judge has decided Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse will be tried as an adult. He is the sole surviving accused pirate from the foiled bid to hijack US ship the Maersk Alabama earlier this month. The others were killed by navy snipers in an operation to rescue the vessel’s captain, Richard Philips. He was being held hostage by the gang on a lifeboat after offering himself up in exchange for the life of the crew. Piracy off Somalia has triggered an unprecedented multinational response and this is a test case under international law. Prosecutors claim Muse lead the hijackers. His defence team say he is uneducated, does not understand what is happening and may, in fact, be a kidnap victim himself.