Three Somali pirates are standing trial on charges of murdering four U.S. yachtsmen in February 2011.
Jean and Scott Adam, Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay were taken hostage at sea when 18 Somali pirates boarded their yacht. The incident was the first in which Americans were killed by pirates.
According to the Associated Press, prosecutors are seeking the death sentence for the three, who have pleaded not guilty, currently on trial. Twenty-two of the 26 charges against them carry execution as a possible punishment. Eleven other Somali pirates have pleaded guilty, and, as mandated by U.S. federal law, are serving life sentences.
A timeline of the incident that occurred more than two years ago provides insight as the trial plays out, although prosecutors and defense attorneys disagree about what happened eight days after pirates hijacked the yacht with the Americans aboard. A pirate fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the USS Sterett, which was following the yacht. Almost simultaneously, shots were fired inside the yacht’s cabin, resulting in the exchange of fire between the two parties that killed two pirates. The defendants’ attorney says the U.S. Navy snipers fired shots first, while prosecutors say the pirates did. Some of the pirates were detained on the USS Enterprise, pictured above, after the killings.
Each of the American hostages was shot multiple times, and prosecutors say they were murdered in cold blood.
Attorney General Eric Holder is pursuing the death penalty in this case in an effort to keep other pirates away from U.S.-flagged vessels, the AP story says.