NEW YORK, April 21 (Xinhua) -- A Somali man accused of being the only surviving pirate in the hijacking of United States cargo ship the Maersk Alabama appeared in a federal court in Lower Manhattan, New York, Tuesday.
Abduhl Wali-i-Musi is the first purported pirate to be tried in the United States in more than a century.
U.S. officials have reportedly determined that he is at least 18-years old, meaning prosecutors will not have to take extra steps to put him on trial. His mother insists he's only 16.
The trial, however, aroused strong protests from some Americans, including New York council member Charles Barron and Rev. Herbert D. Daughtry, Chairman of the National Religious Leaders.
Barron told Xinhua outside the court that "What they (the United States) should do is to deal with large issue," questioning why the United Nations "is allowing the Somali people to die because their fishing water has been polluted by toxic dumping."
He insisted that the court can proceed with the trying, but the United States should "deal with the real issue in Somalia," and "the USA should play a role in stabilizing the country of Somlia" as "it hasn't had a stabilized government for the last 18 years."
"The boy is 16, but the FBI says he's 18, so they can arrest him and bring him here," he said.
However, some passers-by hailed the trial, saying pirates are criminals and should be brought to court.
A New Yorker who only gave his first name as George said "they (pirates) can't do this just because they are poor," adding they could seek assistance if necessary.
Musi's mother insisted her son was "coaxed by gangsters into a life of piracy," according to the Associated Press. The AP says the mother appealed to President Barack Obama to pardon her son.
Musi is one of four Somali men accused of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama more than a week ago. Captain Richard Phillips was held hostage for five days off the coast of Somalia.
Phillips was freed when three pirates were killed by the U.S. Navy.
Prosecutors say Musi could face a maximum of life in prison if convicted, according to local reports.
He's expected to be charged with piracy and hostage taking.
Musi was smiling when he arrived at New York federal court under heavy guard. His left hand is still bandaged after the attack on an American cargo ship off the coast of Africa two weeks ago.
U.S. officials say the suspect was brought to New York to face trial in part because local FBI officials have experience prosecuting crimes against Americans in Africa.