Somali government on Wednesday began the prosecution of the secretary-general of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) Abdalle Ahmed Mumin who continues to face severe restrictions since October last year.
Abdalle Mumin was presented before the Banadir Regional Court in Mogadishu with his lawyers, media representatives and a dozen of journalists. Several members of the Somali Federal Parliament and civil society groups have joined the court hearing which commenced as 11:00am Somalia time.
Mumin’s defense lawyers strongly objected the case as they clearly stated as ‘a politically-motivated’ with no legal basis. The lawyers urged the court to be mindful about their decision as journalism is not a crime and that the ministry of information which brought the case has been working to intimidate and silence Mumin and his colleagues.
“Today was the first hearing of the case of our client Abdalle Ahmed Mumin. Indeed this case is having a public interest because it involves the constitutional rights of the right to freedom of expression and it is a human right,” said defense lawyer Ali Halane who briefed the media “We have heard the charges brought by the office of the attorney general. We shall make our argument in the next hearing as the court told us.”
The prosecutor read three charges (Article 219 – Bringing the Nation or the State into contempt; Article 321- Instigation to disobey the laws and Article 505 – non-observance of orders of the authorities. All are derived from the outdated Somali penal code.
The lawyers noted major flaws in the charge sheet which, according to its date, was issued a year ago and contains references to the article from the Somali Telecommunication Act.
The court viewed two video clips – one by the deputy minister of information Abdirahman Yusuf Adala and another clip by Abdalle Mumin made during media advocacy groups’ press conference on 10 October 2022. The attorney general also made several references of Abdalle Mumin’s critical reporting against the government officials including exposure of human rights violations in Somalia.
“Abdalle Mumin’s continued reporting to shame the Somali government and its officials and claiming that the government is doing human rights violations is not acceptable. This court must silence him to send a signal to other journalists,” the prosecutor Farhan Hussein representing the information ministry added.
The defense lawyers, however, questioned the basis of the charges and the oral argument presented by the attorney general during today’s hearing. Somali authorities have previously said they will cease charging journalists with the penal code.
“Despite all the contradictions and with no legal argument the government decided to proceed this case. This shows the level of intimidation and harassment Abdalle Mumin is facing,” said the SJS president Mohamed Ibrahim.
The next hearing is scheduled for next week.
Last month, seven international organizations sent a joint letter to Somali government officials calling for all charges against journalist, press freedom advocate, and Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, to be dropped.
The letter details the arbitrary arrests, detention, and persecution that Mr. Mumin has faced in recent months at the hands of the Somali government in response to him exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Mumin was first arbitrarily detained on October 11, 2022, following a public statement expressing concerns about a government directive that restricted freedom of expression. He was released on October 16 and re-arrested on October 18 and developed multiple health issues while in detention. He was released on bail on October 22 on the condition that he would not travel outside of the country and that he would cease his work and expressive activities.