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The Pirate Negotiator

by Jeff Thompson
December 2013

Crisis Negotiator Blog by Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson

Ali Mohamed Ali faces life in prison on piracy-related charges. But is he a criminal mastermind or a Good Samaritan? The truth is likely something in between.
Ali Mohamed Ali never considered himself a criminal, let alone a pirate. He was well-educated. He spoke English. He may have asked his friends in America to send the occasional loan while he lived in Somalia, but he didn’t need to steal or hold innocent people hostage to earn money.

...Ali was not what one would typically call a pirate. He never wielded a gun or captured a ship. But on November 9, 2008, he boarded the CEC Future, a Danish cargo vessel that had been seized by Somali pirates while sailing in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Yemen. Since he was fluent in English, Ali had been recruited by pirates to negotiate a ransom with the hijacked ship’s owner. After 71 days, the company that owned the CEC Future agreed to pay $1.7 million for the release of 13 hostages—including the captain, who was on his maiden voyage—and the ship’s freedom.

Ali doesn’t dispute these facts. But he says he’s not a pirate conspirator, simply a man trying to do his civic—and particularly Somali—duty to help those in need. If no ransom were paid, he says, the hostages might have been killed. The U.S. government, on the other hand, says his motives were purely material. The government says that even after the $1.7 million ransom had been agreed upon, Ali delayed the release of the hostages to negotiate a separate $75,000 for himself. Ali says that money wasn’t for him, but for two higher-level pirates who demanded extra ransom for themselves. Requests for comment from prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office for this story were denied.

Read the full article here.

Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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