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Somali pirate cries at NYC court hearing

A federal judge in New York says he must decidewhether a piracy suspect is a juvenile before information about thecase can be made public.

The suspect, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, cried at the hearing Tuesday afternoon.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck ordered the hearing closed tothe public.

Muse is the sole surviving Somali pirate from the hostage-takingof an American ship captain.

-Click to see photos of Abduhl Wali-i-Musi's arrival in NYC, and pirate attacks on U.S. ships

Earlier, handcuffed with a chain wrapped around his waist and about adozen federal agents surrounding him, the slight teen passed through the glare of dozens of news cameras in adrenching rainstorm. His left hand was heavily bandaged from thewound he suffered during the skirmish on the cargo ship, the MaerskAlabama.

A law enforcement official familiar with the case said Muse was being charged under two obscure federal laws thatdeal with piracy and hostage-taking. The official spoke oncondition of anonymity because the charges had not been announced.

The teenager was flown from Africa to a New York airport on thesame day that his mother appealed to President Barack Obama for hisrelease. She said her son was coaxed into piracy by "gangsterswith money."

"I appeal to President Obama to pardon my teenager; I requesthim to release my son or at least allow me to see him and be withhim during the trial," Adar Abdirahman Hassan said in a telephoneinterview with The Associated Press from her home in Galkayo townin Somalia.

The boy's father, Abdiqadir Muse, said the pirates lied to hisson, telling him they were going to get money. The family ispenniless, he said.

"He just went with them without knowing what he was gettinginto," Muse said in a separate telephone interview with the APthrough an interpreter.

He also said it was his son's first outing with the piratesafter having been taken from his home about a week and a halfbefore he surrendered at sea to U.S. officials.

The young pirate's age and real name remained unclear.

Court documents list his name as Abduhl Wali-i-Musi, which theboy's parents have said is incorrect. His parents said he is only16; law enforcement said he is at least 18, meaning prosecutorswill not have to take extra legal steps to try him in a U.S. court.

It is extraordinarily rare for the U.S. government to tryteenagers with crimes, and the dispute over the defendant's agecould present a challenge to prosecutors. Experts said that teenagedefendants are entitled to greater protections under internationallaw, and his age could factor into a prison sentence if he isconvicted.

Experts say international law recognizes that people under 18are less mature, and more easily manipulated by adults, the claimbeing put forth by the defendant's parents.

The government has not said how it knows the defendant is 18,but verifying his actual age could prove difficult because of theanarchy that has ruled Somalia for two decades.

Under international law, prosecutors must show the suspectbelongs in federal court because the alleged crime would be afelony if it had been committed by an adult. They also must show itwas a crime of violence and weapons were used.

Sandra Jenkins, a lawyer who has represented juveniles infederal court in New Orleans, said she expects the initial battleover his age will come when prosecutors claim he's an adult and adefense lawyer tries to convince a judge he's not. At that point,the defense would likely file a motion claiming the court iswithout jurisdiction, she said.

Muse's worried family asked the Minneapolis-based Somali JusticeAdvocacy Center to help get him a lawyer, said the organization'sexecutive director, Omar Jamal.

"What we have is a confused teenager, overnight thrown into thehighest level of the criminal justice system in the United Statesout of a country where there's no law at all," Jamal said. Musespeaks no English, he said.

The suspect was taken aboard a U.S. Navy ship, the USSBainbridge, shortly before Navy SEAL snipers killed three piratesholding Maersk Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips, of Underhill, Vt.

The U.S. officials said the teenager was brought to New York toface trial in part because the FBI office here has a history ofhandling cases in Africa involving major crimes against Americans,such as the al-Qaida bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africain 1998.

Ron Kuby, a New York-based civil rights lawyer, said he has beenin discussions about forming a legal team to represent the Somalisuspect.

"I think in this particular case, there's a grave question asto whether America was in violation of principles of truce inwarfare on the high seas," said Kuby. "This man seemed to comeonto the Bainbridge under a flag of truce to negotiate. He was thencaptured. There is a question whether he is lawfully in Americancustody and serious questions as to whether he can be prosecutedbecause of his age."

-Click to see photos of Abduhl Wali-i-Musi's arrival in NYC, and pirate attacks on U.S. ships


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