Abduwali Muse: Where is the Somali Pirate Now?

In Paul Greengrass’ ‘Captain Phillips,’ a terrifying chain of events unfolds as the crew of a merchant ship finds themselves at the mercy of a group of Somalian pirates. The crew has to rely on their quick thinking, led by their Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), to overpower the enemy and save themselves before help arrives. Despite their attempts to control the situation, things take a turn for the worse. By the end, however, the pirates suffer the most damage. However, their captain, Abduwali Muse, survives.

Abduwali Muse is Serving Time in Prison Today

In 2009, Abduwali Muse attacked Captain Richard Phillips’ ship and crew but didn’t succeed in the endeavor. He was the only one who survived his crew and was taken to the US to be tried for his crimes. He faced several charges, including but not limited to piracy, forceful seizing of a ship, kidnapping the captain, and holding him hostage. The defense tried to have him tried as a minor, but the court decided to try him as an adult. Apart from the attack on Phillips’ ship, Muse was also alleged to have been involved in two other piracy incidents, which took place in March and April 2009.

Image Credit: CBS News/ Youtube

On February 16, 2011, he was sentenced to 405 months in prison, which is the maximum sentence allowed by the law for Muse’s crimes, to which he pled guilty. In addition, he was ordered to pay $550,000 in restitution, with an extra five years of supervised release imposed on him. Because Muse was not financially fit to pay off the restitution, it is taken from his $19 monthly payment, which he receives for his work as a prison orderly. He is currently serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution’s (FCI) Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Muse expected release date is September 14, 2038. During his sentencing, he expressed regret for his actions. He said: “I am sorry very much about what happened to the victims who were in the ship. I ask for forgiveness to all the people who I harmed and to the US government.” Since then, Muse has refrained from talking with the media and did not take part in the making of ‘Captain Phillips’ in any capacity.

Muse Has Had a Hard Time in Prison

According to court records, Abduwali Muse has struggled with mental health issues over the years. Reportedly, he tried to take his own life several times and has been diagnosed with depression and PTSD. His poor health, especially his dental health, is also one of the reasons behind his struggle mentally, and the situation is exacerbated by his being placed in solitary confinement due to his “disruptive” behavior. One of the primary reasons behind his deteriorating health was considered to be his completely being cut off from his roots and his community. Called “culturally adrift” by his lawyer, it was argued that the impossibility of his family visiting him or him having visitors of any kind has been a major factor behind his problems.

To curb the issue, it was recommended that Muse be housed with other Somali prisoners. In addition to this, he was also encouraged to take educational training through the programs provided by the prison system. Over the years, he seems to have made peace with his situation. He did partake in the education programs, and in 2016, acquired a GED. In 2018, he sued the prison dentist and two medical personnel in prison for $1.15 million, claiming that their “deliberate indifference” is the reason why he lost 15 of his 32 teeth, which made it very difficult for him to eat properly, while also putting him in “unbearable” pain. Muse also appealed twice to have his guilty plea challenged on the grounds that he was a minor at the time of the trial. The court rejected both of his appeals.

Muse’s Difficult Childhood Was Blamed for His Piracy Career

During his trial, one of the things that Muse’s lawyer focused on was the inevitability of someone like him falling into a career of crime. The lawyer argued that Muse didn’t have a choice of choosing a better job, considering the country he lived and grew up in. Having grown up in Puntland, an autonomous region of Somalia, Muse has battled poverty and hunger since birth. According to his lawyer, his primary source of survival was camel’s milk, fruit, or nuts, and a cooked meal would happen only about once a month.

Muse was also uneducated, and with little to no prospects of a job that would provide for him and his family, he was drawn towards the one thing that was encouraged in his region, per his lawyer. That region of Somalia was known to have fostered pirate networks, for which young men were drawn out with the promise of a share of the loot. Muse confessed that he had been “recruited by individuals who were smarter than [him].” His mother spoke on his behalf with the authorities, claiming that he was 15 at the time of the trial, and made an appeal with then-President Barack Obama for leniency for her son.

When Muse was arrested, he was found to have been suffering from malnutrition, which was later also given as the reason behind his teeth falling out. However, the prosecution argued that Muse had a choice to walk away with $30k without any conflict, but he chose to worsen the situation because he was eyeing the millions of dollars he could extort from the company. It was “his choices and his actions” that he was to be held accountable for, and the court agreed.

Read More: The Scary True Story Behind Captain Phillips, Explained