A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a suspected pirate will be tried as an adult.
The judge questioned the age of the suspected pirate before deciding whether the his court proceedings should be made public. The suspect, who has not yet been identified, was arrested in the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. He arrived in New York late Monday. The suspect’s father in Somalia told defense attorneys that the suspect was born on November 20, 1993 — making him 15, the defense attorneys told CNN. The judge ordered reporters out of the courtroom while the suspect’s possible juvenile status was discussed. Late Monday, the suspect was all smiles on arriving in New York City, escorted by a phalanx of law enforcement officers. None of the officers would confirm his identity, but his arrival for trial in the United States had been widely expected. The suspect was taken to the Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building in Manhattan, which is linked to a federal detention facility where he was held pending his appearance Tuesday in federal court. He was walked through the rain, surrounded by media, as well as officers from federal and New York City law enforcement agencies. The suspect wore a dark jumpsuit and handcuffs, and what appeared to be a bandage on his left hand. Members of the media urged him to comment, but it was not clear whether he understood. He smiled broadly and laughed. He had been handed over to federal authorities by the U.S. military in Djibouti, defense officials said. The suspect, known in official documents as “Pirate Defendant,” was brought to Djibouti aboard the USNS Walter S. Diehl, a refueling ship that was with the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge at the scene of the failed hijacking on April 8 that turned into a hostage ordeal 350 miles off Somalia.
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Three pirates who were holding the Maersk Alabama’s captain in the ship’s lifeboat were killed by Navy SEALs four days later. The survivor had surrendered and was aboard the Bainbridge when the captain, Richard Phillips, was rescued, officials have said. From the Bainbridge, he was transferred to the the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer for medical treatment. See an interactive map of 2009 pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa » The surviving pirate was wounded when crew members of the Maersk Alabama took him hostage in the early hours of the pirate attack on the cargo ship, according to the military. The crew members had hoped to exchange him for their captain, but the pirates did not release Phillips when the crew returned their captive. “I’m mad because, you know, I could have been dead right now,” Ken Quinn, the Maersk Alabama’s navigation officer, told CNN Radio on Monday. “But at the same time he’s just a little skinny guy, you know, from Somalia where they’re all starving and stuff.”
Quinn said he wasn’t angry at the single alleged pirate, noting that piracy in the region is fueled by the urge to survive hardship and poverty. He said the suspect told him that he wanted to go the United States, and asked whether Quinn could help him get there. “I said, ‘Yeah, you’ll probably going to go anyway. I don’t think you’re going to need my help,'” Quinn said. “If he goes to jail here, it will be a whole lot better than living in Somalia.”