The United States welcomes the August 2 sentencing of the three pirates for the murder of the crew of the Quest.
For several years, pirates operating out of Somalia have preyed on international shipping in the Indian Ocean, especially off the Horn of Africa, one of the world's busiest trade routes. Boarding large commercial vessels, they would hold ship and crew hostage until their demands for millions of dollars in ransom were met.
To justify their actions, some of the pirates have said that they are protecting Somali fishing grounds, which have been depleted, they say, by illegal fishing by other nations. But this is an excuse, a smoke screen for criminal behavior and a lie disproved by the pirates’ own actions.
In February 2011, 19 pirates operating in the Indian Ocean hijacked the yacht Quest. On board the hijacked vessel were four Americans. During negotiations with U.S. military rescue ships, the pirates launched a grenade at the U.S. ships, prompting the commander of the rescue mission to order that the yacht be boarded. All four American citizens aboard the yacht-- Scott Adam, Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay, and Robert Riggle-- were found to have been murdered on orders of the pirate leader. The thirteen surviving pirates surrendered, and were sent to the United States to face charges of kidnapping and piracy.
On July 8, a federal jury in Norfolk, Virginia convicted three of the pirates on 26 counts, including piracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, hostage taking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, and multiple firearms offenses. All three were sentenced to life in prison.
The other pirates who attacked the QUEST had previously pled guilty in a U.S. federal court. They were also sentenced to life in prison, as was the onshore negotiator working for the pirates.
The United States welcomes the August 2 sentencing of the three pirates for the murder of the crew of the Quest. While serving their life sentences, these individuals will join over 1,000 pirates operating in the Indian Ocean that have been brought to justice in 20 countries around the world in recent years.
We extend our condolences to the families whose lives have been forever changed by this tragedy, and will honor their memories by continued commitment to building robust diplomatic partnerships to promote maritime security worldwide.