By Diana Jean Schemo
Appearing as if from vapor, a band of Somali pirates armed with bazookas suddenly roars toward the CEC Future, a Danish ship plying the perilous Gulf of Aden. The ship’s captain radios for help, and a German pilot picks up the distress call. He tells the captain to hang on. “Five minutes,” the pilot radios. “We’ll be there in five minutes.” By then, the ship is overrun with pirates, its captain and crew taken hostage.Thus unfolds Stolen Seas, the riveting documentary by Thymaya Payne, which had its Washington debut at the West End Cinema on January 30th. Payne’s film explores the resurgence of piracy on the high seas, and the unusual relationship that develops between Pers Gullestrup, CEO of the Danish company and Ishmael Ali, the Somali who negotiates on behalf of the pirates.
Following the screening, 100Reporters hosted a brief panel discussion and audience Q&A featuring Matthew Peed, an attorney representing a Somali accused of piracy in U.S. court, Martin Murphy, an expert on piracy and author of several books. Donations accepted, with fun thank you gifts on hand, and Urmila Venugopalan, the South Asia Lead for the Oceans Beyond Piracy Program at One Earth Future.
Martin Murphy, Ph.D., is a consultant, author and strategic analyst with an international reputation in the fields of piracy and unconventional conflict at sea. He has taught a course on â€˜Piracy, Trade and War’ at Georgetown University and is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, where he is leading a major project on naval cooperation involving the U.S. Navy and its longest-standing allies. His books include Somalia, the New Barbary? Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa (2011), and Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money: Piracy and Maritime Terrorism in the Modern World (2009). Both were issued by Columbia University Press and listed amongst the outstanding naval titles on their respective years by the U.S. Naval Institute. Dr. Murphy is currently writing Piracy, Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare at Sea: Navies confront the 21st-Centuryfor Routledge. Dr. Murphy holds a BA with Honours from the University of Wales (UK), and Masters (with distinction) and Doctoral degrees in strategic studies from the University of Reading (UK).
Matthew Peed is a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Clinton & Peed PLLC, where he focuses on civil and criminal litigation. He is lead defense attorney in United States v. Ali, 11-cr-106 (DDC), the first universal jurisdiction piracy prosecution in the United States since 1820. Mr. Ali, the former Director-General of Education for Somaliland, is charged with piracy for his role as a negotiator during the 2008 hijacking of the Danish-owned M/V CEC Future. Mr. Peed previously worked at Williams & Connolly LLP and served as a judicial clerk at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where he worked on Guantanamo and terrorism-related cases. Mr. Peed has travelled extensively in East Africa and is a published author on issues of terrorism and foreign policy. He is a graduate of Harvard University and Duke University School of Law.
Urmila Venugopalan is the South Asia Lead and Manager for the Oceans Beyond Piracy Program at One Earth Future. She works with a range of regional maritime stakeholders both in the public and private sectors to counter piracy. Prior to her current role, Urmila spent several years as the Asia editor and consultant at IHS Jane’s, concentrating on political, defense and security trends in South and Southeast Asia. After Jane’s, she continued to focus on these regions through consultancy projects for a number of public and private organizations, ranging from the U.S. Department of Defense to global risk management businesses. Urmila was born and raised as an Indian expatriate in Qatar before completing her undergraduate degree at McGill University in Canada, and a master’s degree at the London School of Economics & Political Science. In the course of her career, she has had the opportunity to live, work and study in Europe, South Asia and the Middle East. Her articles have appeared in a number of Jane’s publications as well as Foreign Policymagazine, The Huffington Post and CNN.com.
Diana Jean Schemo, who will moderate the discussion, is executive editor of 100Reporters, a nonprofit investigative journalism center whose stories focus on corruption and government accountability. She is an author and award-winning veteran national and foreign correspondent, with more than 25 years at The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun. She has covered poverty and child abuse, religion and culture. The Times nominated her coverage of education for a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. Her stories have appeared in Ms., Marie Claire, New York and The New York Times magazines. Schemo is the author of the 2010 book Skies to Conquer: A Year Inside the Air Force Academy(Wiley). She has reported from more than 25 countries and regions of the world, including Somalia.