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Historic Somali piracy trial in US wrapping up as German one opens

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Alba Bragoli/AP Photo

(Read caption) In this courtroom sketch, five suspected Somali pirates listen to the judge during jury selection at the the federal courthouse in Norfolk, Va., on Nov. 10. The group is being tried on piracy and related charges for the April 1 attack on the USS Nicholas, a Norfolk-based frigate, off the coast of Africa.

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The first piracy trial in the US since the Civil War is nearing a conclusion this week, as Germany's first such trial in hundreds of years opens.

The trials add legal heft to multinational efforts to curb Somali pirates that have hijacked 37 ships, taken 700 hostages, and killed or hurt 12 people this year alone. But some experts doubt such trials will be much of a deterrent.

The trial in America this month has offered a rare glimpse into the US Navy's counterpiracy operations as well as the murky world of Somali pirates, who have plagued one of the world's busiest shipping lanes for years.

Five Somali men are standing trial in Norfolk, Va., on plundering, weapons, and 12 other charges for their failed April 1 attack on a US Navy ship disguised to look like a cargo freighter.

The five men's defense attorneys have argued that they were "innocent fishermen who were abducted by pirates and forced to fire their weapons at the ship," according to the Associated Press. Their case will go to jurors for a decision after today's closing arguments. If found guilty, they face life in jail, AP reported.

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