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Somali pirate mastermind sentenced to life in murder of four Americans

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Posted at 8:36 PM, Aug 13, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-13 20:36:17-04

Given 12 life sentences, a federal judge in Norfolk told convicted pirate Mohammad Saaili Shibin he got off lucky.

In the words of Judge Robert Doumar, "The Russians take care of it quickly and effectively. They shoot the pirates. Unfortunately, our system doesn't allow us to do that."

Shibin will now spend the rest of his life in a federal prison because of his involvement in the 2011 hijacking of the yacht Quest where four Americans were killed.

“Today’s sentencing should send a clear message to pirates around the world: You can run but you can't hide,” said U.S. Attorney Neil McBride.

McBride says Shibin planned the entire hijacking, researching on the Internet who owned the boat and how rich they were so the pirates could demand the highest ransom.

The prosecution argued that even though he was not on the boat, holding one of the guns that killed those on board, he was still an essential part of the piracy organization.

“It simply could not exist without skilled negotiators like Mr. Shibin who put together the financial deals,” said McBride.

Shibin was also convicted of being involved in the 2010 hijacking and torture of 22 sailors aboard the German ship “Marida Marguerite.”

Shibin's lawyer, James Broccoletti, plans to appeal those life sentences, citing a recent District of Columbia Circuit Court case that could change the way piracy is defined in the digital age.

“That judge dismissed the piracy count by saying you had to be on the high seas, and Shabin was not on the high seas, never has been on the high seas. The Supreme Court will eventually have to decide in the modern era what is piracy,” said Broccoletti.

Shibin was also sentenced to pay over $5.4 million in restitution, but the case is far from over.

Family members in the courtroom Monday are already looking toward next summer when the three pirates accused of actually shooting and killing the four Americans aboard the Quest will face the death penalty.