MOGADISHU, Somalia, 03 March, 2021 – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemns the three months jail sentence handed down to freelance journalist Kilwe Adan Farah by the Puntland Military Court during what SJS and its lawyers describe as “a sham trial” in Garowe on Wednesday 03 March 2021.
In a closed court session that took place inside the Garowe Central Prison, the judge of the military court sentenced Kilwe, who was detained since 27 December 2020, with three months in jail. The judge did not find any single evidence for the five charges put forward by the military prosecutor.
Today’s court hearing followed another hearing on Saturday 27 February when journalist Kilwe was brought before the First Instance Court of the Armed Forces where a military prosecutor put forward five charges: Instigation of delinquency; Instigation of Disobey to the Laws; Publication or Circulation of False, Exaggerated or Tendencious News Capable of Disturbing Public Order; Offence against the Authorities by Means of Damaging Posters; and Bringing the Nation or the State into Contempt.
“It is another sad day for press freedom and the entire human rights defenders in the country. Today, Puntland military court sentenced my client Kilwe to three months in jail. That is after the Court could not find proof of evidence for all the five charges brought by the military prosecutor. We challenged them but unfortunately they did not want to consider our defense,” defense lawyer, Mustafe Mohamed Jama, who is hired by SJS to represent Kilwe said.
“Since 11 January, prosecutors continued to alter my client Kilwe’s charge sheet whenever the judges demand for evidences. It was clear that Court and prosecutors were contradicting themselves,” defense lawyer Mustafe adds.
Kilwe was detained by Puntland’s Intelligence Agency (PISA) in Garowe on 27 December 2020 a a day after he reported anti-inflation protest in Garowe which irritated the Puntland President.
International barrister Michael Polak, who was part of the team assisting Kilwe’s case stated “The horrendous ordeal which involved unlawful secret detention of Kilwe, mistreatment against him and the behaviour of the authorities must be condemned. The facade of seizing a journalist because of his work, charging him with serious offences, then changing those charges to find him guilty of minor offences with no proper process is one which is played out by oppressive regimes around the world. The international community must act to protect press freedom across Somalia.”
Last week, SJS, through its lawyers, protested and opposed the use of a military court to prosecute journalist Kilwe. The Somali law clearly states that military courts do not have the jurisdiction, in any circumstances, to charge and prosecute civilians. SJS will continue to fight for the freedom of Kilwe.
“Trying our colleague journalist Kilwe before a military tribunal violates the Somali Federal Constitution and the Puntland Constitution. It also violates the norm of international law, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Principles and Guidelines which states that military courts should not have jurisdiction over civilians,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said.
“We reiterate our call for the unconditional release of our colleague Kilwe who is detained for more two months now. We also call for the military court officials to quash the politically motivated verdict against Kilwe. Puntland authorities, especially top government officials should refrain from using military court to silence independent journalists and media in Puntland,” Mr. Mumin adds. (END)