July 8, 2012 ·18 Comments
HARGEISA — A PROMINENT tribal chief has been sentenced to one year in prison in a district court in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa on Sunday, with defendant’s lawyers denouncing the decision.
Boqor Osman Aw-Mahmoud, popularly known as Buurmadow, was accused of defamation against the country’s political leaders, even though his lawyers argued the court had no evidence against him.
Buurmadow is well known for being vocal against the government and heavily criticizing them for corruption and security abuse matters.
The charges in the case filed against Buurmadow are based on the Somali Penal Code no. 451 and no. 452, which have been condemned and criticized, both locally and internationally.
The penal code was drafted by Italian Somaliland’s Court of Justice in 1957 and is based on the Italian Penal Code of 1930 and it states that insults and defamation are criminal offences.
Local residents have argued that the code is based on 1930 code of then a fascist state which is not compatible with a modern democratic state.
Human right groups have urged the lawyers and courts to re-examine the penal code which falls under article 268. They stressed the need to enshrine laws that guarantee citizens’ rights to question, criticise and condemn the actions and deeds of those in power elected by the citizens inline with the constitution.
Buurmadow has spent the last four months in prison and most of his lawyers have withdrawn from the case on the defendant’s request after the court refused to suspend the case in May due to inconsistencies in the prosecution’s chargesheet.
The district Judge Osman Fanah, who carried out the sentencing, acquitted Buurmadow from conspiracy case filed against him by the top leadership in the country. The Judge said there was no evidence of “foreign plotted” conspiracy but handed down one year sentence which many say is due to pressure from the ruling party.
Barkad Jama Aar, one of the two defense lawyers, expressed his dismay outside the court saying the court has failed to uphold justice.
He said it was a sad day for Somaliland justice system and added the government continues to use criminal defamation and other charges to intimidate anyone exercising their constitutional right to express their opinions.
Citizens on the street criticised the ruling with many saying the government has had huge influence in the court’s decision questioning their independence.
Less and less people are becoming confident in the Somaliland judicial system as judges fail to stand firm on legal principles.
Government officials initiated more than 10 criminal defamation cases against journalists with one, Mustafa Future of Alaami Newspaper summoned before a district court and one pending against Yusuf Gaboobe just in the last five days.
July 8, 2012Follow @somalilandpress