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US court orders life sentences for 5 Somali pirates

August 13, 2015

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) — A federal appeals court in Virginia has ordered a judge to sentence five Somali pirates to life in prison.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled Thursday that a judge erred when he sentenced the defendants to terms ranging from 30 to 42½ years.

In 2010, the pirates attacked a U.S. Navy ship that they mistook for a cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden. Sailors fired back, killing one pirate. The rest were captured.

Nobody aboard the Navy ship was hurt. U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson ruled that under those circumstances, the mandatory life prison term established by federal law for piracy was unconstitutional.

The appeals court disagreed, saying Congress had ample reason to conclude that piracy warrants a life sentence.

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