Report: Journalist Jamal Ibrahim Mohamed’s Illegal 55-day Detention in Hargeisa
On 6 February 2022, Somaliland security forces – especially the intelligence unit – arrested me while I was dining at Daily Doze restaurant in Hargeisa. I was detained by eight men dressed in plain clothes and carrying pistols. They were driving two vehicles – and I was placed into one of the vehicles with fully tinted windows.
They took out their pistols and ordered me to come with them. When I asked them ‘whoa are you’, they responded that they are part of ‘Somaliland intelligence services’. I asked them if they were carrying a court warrant ordering my arrest. The officer admitted that they did not have any court warrant but told me that I will go with them ‘by force and by an arrest order’.
I refused to go with them. They then used force to remove me, by punching and kicking and hitting my head with pistols. They forcefully put them into their vehicle. Immediately, they blindfolded me inside the vehicle, so that I may now know where they were taking me. They also immediately took away my mobile phone. While blindfolded, I was taken to an unknown house, somewhere in Hargeisa. They removed the blindfold once we were inside this unknown house. They detained me inside a room in the back of the house, which I figured was a house owned or rented by the Somaliland intelligence services.
Again, I asked them why they had kidnapped me and brought me to a private home. I also asked them what crime I committed to being mistreated this way. Angrily, they said ‘don’t ask us anything, forcing me to enter the back room and locking me in. I was detained inside that tiny room for two nights. During that time, they asked me many questions that seemed unresponsible. Sometimes they threatened me because they wanted me to respond to repeated questions for which I had no answers.
I informed them that I am a journalist who has been working in Somaliland for a long time. I told them that it was my duty to inform the public of fact-based news and information. I reiterated that they were detaining me illegally because they had no court warrant and were keeping me in a private, unknown house somewhere in Hargeisa. The tiny room was a very hot room with no toilet and windows. The intelligence services men used cloth masks to hide their faces and to prevent me from identifying any of them.
Transfer to C.I.D.
On 8 February 2022, they transferred me over to the Criminal Investigation Department (C.I.D.) offices. They blindfolded me again when we were leaving the unknown house and put me in their vehicle. Once they transferred me to C.I.D. officers, I was detained inside the jail at C.I.D. headquarters. I was detained at C.I.D. headquarters for another 53 nights. I was taken to court a number of times, whereby I was accused of crimes I did not commit or had no knowledge of. These made-up charges included ‘public incitement’ but they did not produce any evidence in court to prove any of the alleged crimes.
The Marodi-Jeex Regional Prosecutor’s Office ordered the C.I.D. to produce evidence of the alleged crimes against me, for which I was allegedly arrested. During this long detention, the C.I.D. did not produce a single shred of evidence to substantiate their allegations against me. Each time the prosecutor’s office asked, the C.I.D. said they were ‘bringing the evidence’ but failed to do so.
Hargeisa regional prosecutor Mr. Mawlid Abdi Muse criticized C.I.D. officers for failing to produce the evidence in the alleged crime. Similarly, Marodi-Jeex Regional Court Judge Abdi Qowdhan Abdi ordered the C.I.D. to ‘speed up’ the case and bring the evidence as soon as possible. However, the C.I.D. officers did not produce the evidence and evaded the court’s demands and pressure to produce evidence to support their allegations against me.
Day in Court
Finally, on 31 March 2022, my case was again brought to court, and the C.I.D. brought allegations that I ‘distributed false news’ regarding a Facebook post I wrote that Somaliland Transport and Roads Minister Mr. Abdirisak Ibrahim Mohamed had submitted his resignation to the Somaliland President and that he [former Minister Mohamed] planned to open a new Political Association. This information was later proven to be factual. The former Minister resigned from his post and launched Waberi Political Association.
The Court Judge listening to the cause, Judge Hassan Mattan, declared that the information I had posted on Facebook was ‘factual’ and therefore ‘cannot be considered false news’. He rejected the prosecutor and C.I.D.’s unsubstantiated allegations against me, for which I was detained illegally for 55-days. On that same day, 31 March 2022, the judge ordered my release and I regained my freedom after the court found me innocent of all alleged charges.
Physical, Emotional Trauma
During my illegal detention, I experienced threats, intimidation, and physical attacks. I did not receive the medical assistance that I had requested or counseling support to deal with the physical and emotional trauma of being detained illegally in terrible conditions. I was also asked questions that the unknown security forces had no right to ask me and to which I did not know any of the answers.
I am deeply hurt and saddened by the manner of my illegal detention and the aftermath of threats, intimidation, and physical attacks, including being hit with pistols. These acts are illegal under Somaliland law, which guarantees the freedom of speech and the free press. I was also innocent of any alleged charges that the prosecutor could not prove in court. I was also denied any access to my phone so I could contact organizations that support journalism and human rights, including international organizations that I was registered as a Hargeisa-based journalist.
My rights as a citizen and as a journalist were violated. My freedom was taken away without a legal right or any evidence against me. The Somaliland law was violated and the authorities did not compensate me for the egregious crimes committed against me.
Jamaal Ibrahim Mohamed (Gobonimo)
Freelancer Journalist in Hargeisa - Somaliland