Somaliland: King Buurmadow freed from Mandera Maximum Prison

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King Buurmadow/file“I thank all who campaigned for my release” Buurmadow

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – President Ahmed Mahmoud Silanyo has pardoned imprisoned traditional leader.

Custodial corps officials at Mandera Prison released King Osman Aw Mahmoud Buurmadow late last night from his solitary cell following a presidential pardon.

The king paid tribute to all traditional leaders, citizens in the country and diaspora and foreign organizations more specifically Amnesty International for their concerted campaign efforts on his behalf that led to the late night presidential pardon.

The traditional leader who was serving a one year sentence for defamation imposed on a Hargeisa court told pressmen at his house early this morning that he was not ready, at this time, to discuss events related to his imprisonment

Said he, “I am not ready to start spitting fire about my arrest thus alienate members of the public who supported me all the way during my ordeal”

He informed that while his imprisonment was embarrassing, he was treated courteously and his health is in good condition even after four months in remand at the Hargeisa prison and a few days at the Mandera Maximum prison from where his release was effected from.

While stressing on the amicable end to his ordeal, the king said that as a leader he is always prepared to face consequences of actions geared towards ensuring that his people are treated humanely and availed the best public services possible as well as good governance.

The one year sentence of King Osman Aw Mahmoud Buurmadow emanated from charges related to defame the president H. E Ahmed Mahmoud Silanyo in a various foreign countries during a prolonged stay abroad.

The arrest of the king at the Egal international airport in mid-March 2012 upon arrival from the UAE and subsequent arraignment in court on defamation and the later dropped charge of treason raised temperatures within the populace who were to be seen in their 100’s at the court house whenever the king was due demanding his release or conviction.

As per his release unconfirmed reports indicate the presidential pardon came upon after week long lengthily discussions between the president and a number of senior traditional leaders at the presidency in Hargeisa.

In its petition to the government of Somaliland for his release Amnesty International said it is concerned at the use of criminal charges against King Osman Mahmoud Buurmadow for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

The trial proceedings against King Osman Mahmoud Buurmadow have been marred by irregularities, which Amnesty International believed could be politically motivated. Most recently, the prosecution appealed against the sentence handed out to King Osman Mahmoud Buurmadow on 8 July, preventing him from converting his prison sentence into a fine and being released, as allowed under Article 109 of the Penal Code for prison sentences of a year or less. In its letter to the authorities, Amnesty International expressed concerns that he was detained for 40 days after his initial arrest before being charged, and at reports of interference by the Somaliland authorities with the trial proceedings and intimidation attempts against lawyers acting on his behalf.

Background

King Osman Mahmoud Buurmadow, aged about 45, is a traditional elder from the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in north western Somalia, who has been involved in peace mediation in local conflicts in that region. Amnesty International appealed on his behalf after he was arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he resided, in November 2011, and held incommunicado until his release in January 2012 (see Amnesty International urgent action, 5 January 2012 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE25/001/2012/en)  .

The information available indicates that he had been arrested by the UAE authorities at the request of the Somaliland authorities, apparently because of his criticism of the President of the Republic of Somaliland.

His detention, trial and conviction have occurred in a context of increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and the press in Somaliland. Between January and June 2012, dozens of journalists were arbitrarily arrested and detained by the Somaliland security forces, on the basis of articles they have written or items they have broadcast. While in most cases they have been detained for only a matter of days, the arrests have had a chilling effect on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Somaliland. In addition, at least two journalists arrested in February 2012 sustained serious injuries after being beaten in custody by members of the Somaliland security forces and had to seek medical treatment outside Somaliland. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no investigation has been carried out into the beatings of the two journalists and no one has been held accountable.

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