Mogadishu (Diplomat.so) – Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) is concerned by the Puntland authorities' use of a military tribunal to prosecute freelance journalist Kilwe Adan Farah who appeared before the military court today on 27 February 2021. SJS calls the Puntland military prosecutor to immediately drop charges against Kilwe.
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.
During the Saturday’s court hearing, Kilwe was brought at 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. The prosecutor asked the Military Court to sentence Kilwe with 10 years imprisonment.
However, the defense lawyer Mustafe Mohamed Jama, who is representing Kilwe on behalf of SJS, challenged the military prosecutor’s charges and questioned the military court’s jurisdiction over the journalist’s case. The lawyer also insisted that his client is a professional journalist and that journalism was not a crime under the Somali laws and therefore there was no a case to be heard at the Court.
The defense Lawyer further appealed the Court to free Kilwe and instruct authorities to compensate for his time in the jail. The Court judge demanded the military prosecutor to bring evidences for the charges he brought before the Court session was adjourned in mid-day without mentioning when the next hearing will take place.
"My client journalist Kilwe Adan Farah has today appeared before the military court. It was very shocking that authorities are trying to break the laws by putting a journalist in a military court. This is absolutely a slap on the face on the Puntland justice and the country’s laws,” defense lawyer Mustafe said shortly after the court was closed.
Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) is concerned about the continued detention and judicial harassment against Kilwe Adan through a military court trail. Trying the journalist Kilwe before a military tribunal violates the Somali Federal Constitution and the Puntland Constitution. It also violates the norm of international law that military courts should not have jurisdiction over civilians. Also, Kilwe’s trial violates the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Principles and Guidelines on the right to fair trial and legal assistance in Africa state that military courts should not "in any circumstances whatsoever have jurisdiction over civilians.”
"We demand the unconditional release of our colleague Kilwe who is detained for more two months now. We also call for the military court to drop these politically motivated charges against Kilwe,” Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said, "Puntland authorities, especially top government officials should refrain from using the military court to silence independent journalists in Puntland.”
"Prosecuting journalists for incitement and publication of false news or bringing contempt to the state or government officials are incompatible with Somalia’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Somalia is a party,” Mr. Mumin added.
A London based international barrister, Michael Polak who is helping with the Kilwe case stated "moving from a charge of attempted murder, which has been abandoned, to offences clearly aimed at preventing journalistic activity and pursuing Kilwe through the Military Court when he is a civilian shows that these proceedings are a farce. The President of Puntland and the Military Court Judge must step forward to end this embarrassing affair.”
On 1 February 2021, Kilwe was nominated among the 10 Most Urgent Press Freedom cases for February 2021 by the One Free Press Coalition, which is an international coalition of media houses and organizations that stand up for journalists under attack for pursuing the truth worldwide.