The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) denounces the three-year jail term imposed by the Military High Court of Puntland on journalist Kilwe Adan Farah and demands his unconditional release from illegal detention.
On March 17, in a trial presided over by military officials and a prosecutor, where Kilwe was not even allowed the benefit of legal representation, presence of family members or friends, the military tribunal adjudged him guilty of crimes by the Military prosecutors under Somalia’s Penal Code. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
“We condemn the harsh, unjust, sham and uncalled for sentence, which was imposed on Kilwe Adan Farah, by the Military High Court of Puntland. This mischievous sentence was arrived at in total violation of Kilwe’s civil rights to a fair hearing, legal representation or independent witnesses,” NUSOJ Secretary General Faruk Omar Osman, said in reaction to the military tribunal’s decision. “This guilty verdict demonstrates brazen vendetta against journalists in Puntland.”
Trial monitoring conducted by NUSOJ in order to assess compliance with fair trial, the union takes note of the blatant miscarriage of justice and abuse of court processes by Puntland Authorities and condemns the practice of using the military courts as a means of cowing the population into submission and silence. Kilwe’s trials before Puntland military courts failed to meet international standards of fair trial.
“We would like to put it on record once again that Kilwe is innocent and a civilian who should be tried in a civilian court, if at all there are charges levelled against him. We insist that his only crime was to carry out his duty to the public as a journalist” added Osman.
The three-year jail term against Kilwe came after the Armed Forces Prosecutor appealed the ruling of the Military Court of first instance which had condemned him to 3 months in jail even as it agreed there was no compelling evidence to justify the trial.
First arrested on 27 December 2020, Kilwe was held incommunicado for 2 weeks before he was charged with Instigation of a criminal act under article 230 of the penal code, public incitement and extortion under article 231 as well as conspiracy to commit a political crime under article 232 under Somalia’s penal code.
After months of relentless attacks, groundless prosecutions and intimidation of independent journalists, Kilwe’s case creates another dangerous pattern, with a journalist found guilty under a military tribunal for normal journalistic work. These politically organised prosecutions are clearly aimed at inciting self-censorship and forcing journalists to doubt every critical word against current Puntland administration.
During the military court proceedings, Kilwe suffered from a range of detainee rights and fair trial violations, including interrogations without the presence of a lawyer, ill-treatment, incommunicado detention, lengthy pretrial detention, decisions issued without an explanation or a legal basis, and arbitrary sentences.
Puntland has set a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression in Somalia and the ramifications of Kilwe’s case go deep into Puntland’s democratisation as there will be no semblance of democracy to talk about when a journalist is languishing in jail.
Over the past two years, Puntland has been going down the cliff of infamy and now stands out as the only Federal Member State of Somalia, which is notorious for prosecution of journalists in military courts.
“We reiterate that the charges against Kilwe are unfounded and demand that the politically motivated conviction is immediately overturned and his status as a free citizen reinstated” declared Osman.