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Japanese Piracy Trial

This case summary is being revised and will be updated soon

Court Tokyo District Court, Japan
Decision title Judgment
Decision date 12 April 2013
  • The Prosecutor
  • Mohamed Urgus Adeysey
  • Abdinur Hussein Ali
  • X1
  • X2
Categories Piracy
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On 5 March 2011, four Somalian men armed with submachine guns attempted to board and hijack the Guanabara, a Japanese Mitsui O.S.K. Lines tanker in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Oman. They were captured by the US Navy, and subsequently extradited to Tokyo, Japan, on request of the Japanese coastguard.

Two suspects, Mohamed Urgus Adeysey and Abdinur Hussein Ali, pleaded guilty. From the other two suspects, who were both juvenile at the time the crimes took place, one pleaded guilty and the other not guilty. The Tokyo District Court found all four guilty though, and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from five to eleven years.

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Procedural history

The four men were captured by the US Navy on 5 March 2011. Subsequently, they were extradited to Tokyo and charged with piracy on the basis of new Japanese anti-piracy laws. This was the first time the laws were used since their entry into force in 2009.

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Related developments

Three of the convicted pirates have appealed against their verdicts to the Tokyo High Court.

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Legally relevant facts

The four men, armed with SMGs, allegedly attempted to hijack a ship and take its crew hostage in order to demand a ransom. Two men were identified as Mohamed Urgus Adeysey and Abdinur Hussein Ali, the two other remained unnamed due to their juvenile age under Japanese law at the time of their alleged crimes. Adeysey, Ali and one of the juveniles pleaded guilty; the other juvenile pleaded not guilty. Both juveniles were tried separately.

The defence team of Adeysey and Ali also emphasised that none of the 24 crew members of the ship had actually been physically harmed in the hijacking attempt.

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Core legal questions

Although the current cases were the first Japanese trials of piracy suspects under its new anti-piracy laws, the questions at hand were not substantially different from any "regular" trial. The cases revolved around the question whether the suspects were to be found guilty of piracy and, if this would be the case, what their sentence should be, taking into account the illiteracy and lack of basic education of the suspects and the poor circumstances under which they grew up.

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Court's holding and analysis

All four men were found guilty. Adeysey and Ali were sentenced to ten years' imprisonment on 1 February 2013. The unnamed suspect who pleaded guilty, was reported to be sentenced to five to nine years' imprisonment on 25 February 2013. And finally, the unnamed suspect who pleaded not guilty, was given the highest sentence on 12 April 2013: he is to serve eleven years in prison.

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Further analysis

  • The trials in the Tokyo Court gave rise to discussion about fair trial rights and the role and importance of court interpreters, as no Somali-Japanese interpreter could be found. The issue was solved by using two interpreters(Japanese-English and English-Somalian). See M. Ito, 'Somali Pirates' Trials Highlight Role of Interpreters', The Japan Times, 21 March 2013.
  • Another interesting - and brief - read on Japan and piracy is the presentation of Shigeki Sakamoto, now Professor in international law at Doshisha University, Japan: 'Japan's Response to Somali Piracy' (see sheets 33 and 34 on the current case).

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials