After posting yesterday on Ali Mohamed Ali, a supposed-Somali “pirate” brought to the U.S. for prosecution in a federal criminal court, I was contacted by Ali’s attorney Matthew Peed. We had a phone conversation and I want to pass on to you what Mr. Peed told me. First, I asked him if his firm has a history of defending terrorists. He said ‘no.’ Further, they have no plans to focus on defending terrorists and/or pirates in the future, and are focused on those unjustly charged by the DOJ. As you read the story, critical to Ali’s case is that 1) He participated in the freeing of German piracy hostages, Jürgen Kantner and Sabine Merz aboard their yacht, Rockall, in 2008; 2) This is a central issue as it is why Ali became involved in negotiations for the freedom of the MV CEC Future; 3) Ali was NOT arrested aboard the Future, 4) A very high-profile piece on this case appeared in NRO written by John Yoo, a G.W. Bush administration DOJ attorney. Yoo also interviewed with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, and Carlson is clearly convinced Ali is a danger to the U.S. Yoo does nothing to present facts (or at least what seem to be facts as I find them in court documents and witness testimony). I have an opinion about Yoo’s assessment and will address that below, along with the video interview; 5) According to the captain of the Future, Ali was also taken hostage as he attempted to facilitate a ransom and freedom for the ten Russians, a Georgian and Estonian.
I’ve provided topics in bold text, so that you can pick and choose what you are interested in, in this long article.
Background and Ali’s 26-year legal status in the U.S.:
Ali Mohamed Ali (51) was born in Somalia, and lived in Mogadishu from about the age of 7 to 19, when he came to the U.S. legally. He remained in the U.S. for the next 26 years. He speaks fluent English. According to Matthew Peed, Ali has never been on U.S. government assistance other than the 33 months he spent in prison while awaiting trial for piracy and today is in ICE detention. At age 19 he entered the State University of New York (SUNY) through about the first semester of his senior year, when he dropped out due to financial problems. He did not receive a degree and taxpayers did not pay for his education. He had no criminal record in the U.S. or in Somalia.
After college, Ali had pending applications for legal status. In 2007 he was granted ‘parole’ status, a special permission to be in the U.S. ‘Parole’ allowed him extended stays until his applications were processed. The same year, 2007, he traveled to Somalia for a short trip to see his small son. He had the right to return to the U.S. and had an immigration hearing scheduled for June 22, 2007 which should have led to receiving legal status. While in Somalia, things happened between him and the mother of his son, and he became the custodial parent for his boy. Because of these events, he missed the June hearing. He believed he would not be able to bring his son back to the U.S. with him. From 2007 until the time of his arrest in Washington, D.C. in 2011, he was the sole caretaker for his child. Had he not gone to Somalia (Somaliland), he would have been nowhere near an event that included piracy. He also would not have had his child.
So that’s the background.
Here’s the rest of the story according to his attorney, other testimony and court documents:
Before entering the U.S. prison system, Ali was living in Somaliland, (western Somalia) which considers itself an independent sovereign Republic and separate from Somalia, but the rest of the world doesn’t see it that way. In the CIA World Factbook, there is no Somaliland, although they have their own flag and governance.
Ali and German Hostages Jürgen Kantner and Sabine Merz:
A German friend of Ali’s in Somaliland asked him to try to help German citizens, Jürgen Kantner and Sabine Merz, who were taken hostage from their yacht, Rockall on June 28, 2008, while trying to pass through the Gulf of Aden on the way to Thailand. Ali eventually located the couple who were hidden in a cave in the mountains of Puntland. He contacted the German Embassy and handed the phone to Mr. Kantner. That was the first time Kantner or Merz had been in touch with German authorities. He supplied diabetic meds for Mr. Kantner. Ms. Merz became ill. He went to a nearby town, purchased medicine for her. and according to Mr. Peed, “nursed them back to health.” You will read below from court documents, and from Mr. Kantner, that Ali was shot at and pushed off of a small cliff by the pirates. You will read how the pirates attempted to hide the couple elsewhere without telling Ali where they were, but that he located them again and told the pirates he would stay with them until they were freed. It’s my understanding that that is exactly what he did. Kantner and Merz testified in Ali’s U.S. trial via video saying they were “freed thanks to Ali.” They tried to get to the U.S. for trial, but couldn’t get here in time. They traveled to Singapore for the video testimony, given for two hours at 2 a.m. Singapore time. They wanted to help this man.
MV CEC Future – the current case his trial was based upon:
Due to the successful outcome of the Kantner-Merz case, Ali became involved in seeking freedom for the Danish shipping firm, Clipper Group, which brings us up-to-date.
Throughout the Future negotiations, the United States was NOT involved in the freeing of the hostages or the ship (not the CIA or the FBI). The UK was not involved in any way.
Ali boarded the Future voluntarily. In the course of negotiating, he was also taken hostage and did not leave the ship until the deal was done, which happened after the Clipper Group hired Salama Fikira to make an air-drop of the ransom money. Ali was released in January 2009, along with the crew. Below you will see testimony from the Future’s Captain about Ali’s actions during the time held hostage. This portion is better told through direct quotations of eyewitnesses.
In October 2010, Ali was appointed to the position of Director General of Education (Education Minister) in Somaliland. In that position, he was overseeing the building of schools.
A foundation in the U.S. contacted him, invited him to the U.S. to discuss how the unnamed foundation (unnamed for now) could help poor children in his country. He was approached as a person experienced in improving the lives of children. He accepted the invitation, landed at Dulles in Washington, D.C. and was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately. His son was in Somililand and is now back with his mother in Dubai.
According to Mr. Peed, the FBI, not Homeland Security, set up a “fake” website “foundation” to lure him here. He came willingly without knowing he was being lied to. He became a victim of the DOJ’s policy of Counter–Piracy Policy: Delivering Judicial Consequences (see detail below in green text). The ship was not a U.S. ship. The ship was not based in the U.S. The ship’s flag was the flag of the Bahamas, flying under the British monarchy. The U.K. was not interested in Ali Mohammed Ali. No other country was interested in Ali Mohammed Ali. Our Department of Homeland Security was not interested in Ali Mohamed Ali. Only Eric Holder was interested in this man.
After what I have read, I believe Holder needed to show that he could put terrorists/pirates on trial in the U.S. and do it successfully. In this case, assuming all documents I’ve read are true, and some I’ve been told will be available soon, Eric Holder failed after putting his best attorneys on this case, and violating numerous ethical boundaries. Readers at this site should have no problem understanding what Holder’s DOJ might be capable of.
Ali was arrested in April 2011. The trial began on November 4, 2013. Closing arguments were given on November 18-19, 2012. On November 26th the jury returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict on piracy, but were hung on two additional charges: 1) conspiracy to commit hostage taking and 2) aiding and abetting hostage taking. The jury instructions were confusing as the elements of the charges were virtually identical. It would be impossible to commit hostage taking without also committing piracy. The defense asked for clarifying instructions. The Judge refused. The Jury could not come to a conclusion. The Judge order them to continue to deliberate, which they did until December 12, 2013, but still could not come to a verdict. The judge declared a mistrial on those two counts.
The defense entered a motion to dismiss the remaining two charges. The judge did not have a chance to issue a decision, as the government moved to dismiss the charges on its own. The judge simply entered a routine order granting the government’s motion to dismiss. The charges were identical to the piracy charge Ali was acquitted on. All elements of the trial are over. There can be no government retrial or appeals.
Captain Roger Coldiron (Ret), former Inspector General for Europe serving under Admirals Gregory G. Johnson and Michael G. Mullen – His last post was U.S. Defense and Naval Attaché to the Kingdom of Denmark. He served 36 years in the Navy. I have his testimony but cannot link it. The following is a mix of summary and quotations, which are indented.
Captain Coldiron, in his capacity as Naval Attaché to Denmark, met with Per Gullestrup, the CEO of Clipper Group and the Future, for lunch on April 7, 2009.
Gullestrup informed me that Ali Mohamed Ali had been very helpful in resolving the crisis regarding the hijacking of the M/V CEC Future in November 2008. He also told me that Mr. Ali had provided background and insight into the pirates’ operations and mentality following the hijacking, and credibly described threats of violence against him by the pirates. I told Mr. Gullestrup that I would be interested in speaking with Mr. Ali.
On April 7, 2009, Mr. Gullestrup sent an email to Mr. Ali, copied to me, in which he recounted our lunch and asked Mr. Ali if he would be willing to assist the United States to better understand the political picture in Somalia and the clans involved in piracy. Mr. Ali thanked Mr. Gullestrup for introducing him to “people of authority and knowledge,” and stated that he would be willing to assist the United States government on these issues..
In his declaration, Coldiron said:
…I do not believe that Mr. Ali intended to do anything criminal in connection with the CEC Future. I believe Mr. Ali is credible in his descriptions of threats by the pirates on the CEC Future…
…I also believe that Mr. Ali is a good man interested in peace and justice for Somalia.
The above was sworn under oath.
The following is from a defense court document dated January 12, 2012 giving testimony from the Kantner and Merz and the Captain of the Future:
…Mr. Ali was treated with a mix of coercion and utilitarian deference by the pirates. The pirates allowed Mr. Ali to intervene, and respected his ability to contact and communicate with the German foreign office. They became distrustful of Mr. Ali, however, and Mr. Kantner describes how the pirates fired shots near Mr. Ali’s head and pushed him off a small cliff. Id. (¶9–10). Ultimately, Mr. Ali was abandoned by the pirates when they no longer needed his language ability due to intervention by the president of Puntland. The pirates moved the couple to a new camp in the middle of the night without telling Mr. Ali, and Mr. Ali had to search for the couple’s whereabouts. Id. (¶11). After tracking them down, Mr. Ali told the pirates that he intended to stay with the couple and would not leave until they were free. Needless to say, Mr. Ali’s actions during the German hostage crisis appear heroic and life-saving, and not those of a pirate conspirator. Mr. Kantner concurs, stating, “I do not believe that Mr. Ali is a pirate or conspired with the pirates. Rather, it is clear to me that Mr. Ali came as an intermediary and intervened to try to help set us free from the pirates.” Id. (¶12).
From the same document linked above, the Captain of the Danish ship Future, Andrey Nozhkin:
As captain of the CEC Future, Andrey Nozhkin spent nearly seventy days at sea with Mr. Ali. On August 23, 2011, Mr. Nozhkin signed a sworn affidavit describing his experience. Ex. 3. As a general matter, Mr. Nozhkin “take[s] absolutely no position as to whether or not Mr. Ali was a pirate or with the pirates.” Id. (¶ 9).2 In terms of what he actually observed, however, Mr. Nozhkin stated that the difference between Mr. Ali and the pirates was “like night and day.” Id. (¶ 8(k)). Mr. Ali spoke of the pirates as his “enemy,” id. (¶ 8(k)), stated that he had “nothing in common with pirates other than language,” id. (¶ 8(b)), and consistently “put himself between the pirates and the crew to protect the crew from mistreatment by the pirates.” Id. (¶ 8(l)). He “gave his mobile phone to crew members on many occasions so they could talk to their families.” Id. “[W]hen the pirates received the ransom and started to distribute it, Mr. Ali stayed completely out of the process.” Id. (¶ 8(i)). Rather, Mr. Ali “remained with the crew on the bridge, separate from the pirates,” “seemed to be in the same position as the crew,” and “the pirates seemed to forget about him.” Id. And after the pirates disembarked, Mr. Nozhkin and the crew presented Ali with “gifts” from “a collection of items we hid from the pirates,” including “a parka with the Clipper Group logo, t-shirts, and possibly caps or gloves.” Id. (¶ 8(j)).
According to the defense document above, the U.S. government accused Ali of “assist[ing] pirates in collecting the crew’s passports, yet the ship’s Second Engineer contradicted that story, saying the pirates forced the crew to put all belongings in a bag, he believed, on the first day of boarding the ship. Ali was not yet on the ship, and it doesn’t make much sense that pirates would allow crew members to keep their cell phones longer than the time it took to demand them handed-over.
Again from the same document, the government accused Ali of going with pirates to the Captain’s cabin, where the Captain was forced to open the safe and hand over money. Captain Nozhkin denied it, saying there were two pirates and no other witnesses and that Ali was not present at the time. In addition:
…Nozhkin provided direct eyewitness testimony corroborating Mr. Ali’s main contention — that he was essentially a prisoner of the pirates….He [Ali] was arrested by the pirates and detained in his cabin for several days.
Counter-Piracy Policy: Delivering Judicial Consequences – other incidents tried in the U.S. under this policy.
How many times has the piracy “Judicial Consequences” been used? According to the Congressional Research Services (CRS) Piracy off the Horn of Africa report dated April 27, 2011, the U.S. has used the “Counter-Piracy Policy: Delivering Judicial Consequences” to take pirates to trial in the U.S. as follows:
1) Pirates involved in the February 2, 2011 deaths of four Americans aboard the sailboat Quest. Thirteen Somalis and on Yemeni were captured and brought to Norfolk, Virginia where they have been indicted by a grand jury.
2) Mohammad Saaili Shibin, accused of serving in a leadership role as the pirate gang’s hostage negotiator. He is the first piracy suspect captured onshore in Somalia to be tried in the U.S.
3) Ali Mohamed Ali, referred to as a “suspected pirate negotiator.”
Keynote Speech: U.S. Department of State Counter-Piracy Policy: Delivering Judicial Consequences speech by Andrew J. Shapiro, Keynote at American University Law Review Symposium, Washington, D.C. March 21, 2010:
“We are also thinking about creative ways to maximize the effectiveness of prosecutions and to send a stronger message of deterrence to would-be pirates….[such as] a more selective pursuit of prosecutions, trying only the most senior pirate leaders among a crew of suspects.”
The Shapiro speech was made about one month before Ali’s arrest. One thing we know about Eric Holder and his DOJ is that he has no lack of “creative” endeavor.
Money: Did Ali Mohammed Ali Receive Money From Pirates in exchange for his negotiations (stated in writing to me direct from attorney Matthew Peed):
Ali has never received any money from pirates. During his trial, the government [U.S. DOJ] contended that a $75,000 side payment Ali negotiated with Clipper as part of the ultimate bargain was really for him. That’s not what the negotiation tapes reflected. Rather, as reflected on the tapes, there were divisions among the pirates, and the side payment became a means of getting one of the pirate factions to agree to the final “official” ransom.
In any event, the wire transfer bounced back to Clipper. They decided to resend it to Ali two weeks after the ship was released, so it could not have been a “ransom.” By that time Ali and Clipper were already talking daily. The Future’s crew had reported to Clipper that Ali had protected them, and Clipper had asked Ali to assist them with another hijacked ship, promising him a commission. Ali worked with them for the next several months on the case, but never asked for or received a commission.
I have a copy of the Clipper CEO’s written endorsement letter, but I cannot link it. It is on Clipper letterhead and signed by Per Gullestrup. The portion referring to Ali is transcribed below:
September 24th, 2010
During the captivity of the vessel, our crew has reported to us that Mr. Ali was instrumental in intervening with the pirates to ensure that our crew had the best possible conditions under the circumstances. This included the pirates permitting the crew to sleep in their cabins, whereas, in most cases other hijacking cases the crew are kept on the bridge under inhumane conditions.
After the release of the vessel Mr. Ali has been very cooperative in assisting our company…
We have no reason to believe that Mr. Ali was part of the pirate team who hijacked our vessel.
Furthermore it is to Mr. Ali’s credit that he has at no point asked for any kind of compensation for the assistance rendered after the release of our vessel.
Signed: Yours faithfully, Clipper Group A/S, Per Gullestrup, C.E.O.
Ali’s Master Calendar hearing for “removal proceedings” is set for March 6, 2014. Peed expects a date to be set about two months later for an asylum hearing in immigration court, not criminal court. Ali will apparently stay in ICE detention until his asylum hearing, even though he has been acquitted, has family in the area, and was in the U.S. legally for 26 years.
Ali was held for 28 months before trial and 33 months overall, not counting one month, to date, in immigration detention, longer than any other terrorist awaiting trial in civilian courts, including members of al-Qaeda, according to Peed. He was behind bars for 34 months, with the exception of a total of 11-1/2 days. During the pretrial period, the district court judge allowed him released to the custody of an uncle in D.C., in July 2012 for 10 days and in September 2013 for 1-1/2 days. A court of appeals overturned the release both times.
After acquittal, Ali remained incarcerated until January 18, 2014 when Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took custody and moved him to detention in Stafford, Virginia.
Ali is not married. Most of his siblings, and his mother live in Canada. His father died in 2010.
Ali could have had a public defender. The Washington, D.C. law firm of Clinton Brook & Peed defended him pro-bono.
In this Fox News video, Tucker Carlson interviewed Yoo:
CARLSON: IN 2008 a Somali pirate named Ali Mohamed Ali took part in an attack on a Danish vessel off the coast of Northern Somalia. When the U.S. captured him, the U.S. Justice Department decided to try him in U.S. District court rather than by U.S. Military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. Well, it turns out the jury found him not guilty of piracy and the DOJ dropped the remaining charges against him. Now, that pirate is applying for asylum here in the United States and the shocking part about it is that he might get it.
Carlson introduces John Yoo, a Law Professor at U.C. Berkely and a G.W. Bush administration attorney. Carlson asks “How could this happen?
Yoo says it is a “natural outgrowth” of the policies Holder and the Obama administration are pursuing by using the civilian, domestic criminal justice system to try terrorists and pirates.
CARLSON: There is really no debate about the essential facts that this guy, Ali Mohamed Ali was a Somali pirate, he was captured on the Danish vessel after $1.7 million was paid in ransom. He was a pirate! How could they fail to get a conviction on this guy?
Yoo, who is a position to know the truth, doesn’t make an attempt to correct Tucker Carlson, and rather says it is one more instance of “government bungling.” Yoo believes Ali should have been sent to Guantanamo Bay. He reiterates that the prosecutors lost the case, and because of the possibilities of losing cases on terrorism, U.S. criminal courts should not be utilized.
I believe my readers agree on that point. Terrorists should be tried by the military, but Yoo has apparently not learned the facts of this case, or has, and is ignoring them.
Yoo has an agenda. He is focused on slamming Holder, who richly deserves it. Remember that Holder tried to destroy John Yoo for his part in what the Obama administration contended was “Torture,” during the G. W. Bush administration. Holder turned “enhanced interrogation” into “harsh interrogation,” and claimed that Yoo illegally drafted “legal theories” that led to waterboarding. The DOJ tried to send Yoo and Jay Bybee to prison. Both men were cleared.
As of May 2011, both Bybee and Yoo were still facing war crime charges in Spain. I find nothing indicating those charges have been resolved. If not, he is subject to extradition.
Back to the video, Yoo says that Ali is “free,” which he is not as of this writing, and says that he will likely receive asylum.
CARLSON: In this case, is there anything that can be done to prevent this guy from getting into the U.S. under asylum, getting welfare and taxpayer support? He is again, for the third time, a pirate.
Yoo responds that he doesn’t think there is a way to keep Ali from receiving asylum. Carlson asks what is wrong with this country that we would “welcome pirates and then put them on welfare?” Yoo’s answer goes to the administration’s “anti-war” policies and belief that terrorism and piracy is a civil criminal issue.
CARLSON: That is just unbelievable. Keep in mind that if this guy, if he gets asylum, will not be an illegal alien in this country. He will be an legal alien.
Closing reminder: Ali, throughout his 26 years in the U.S. was, at all times, in the U.S. legally, though without permanent status. After taking custody of his small son in Somaliland, he missed his permanent status hearing, and stayed in Somaliland until the U.S., using a “fake” website contacted him, invited him to the U.S. to discuss aid for poor children in his country, and then arrested him upon his arrival at Dulles airport. I have much more to validate this story and will do so at a later time.
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