Prosecutor says planning to try journalist detained without charge in Hargeisa

Somaliland’s prosecutor says that he plans to bring to trial a journalist who has been detained for more than a month in Hargeisa without charge.

Abdimalik Muse Coldoon was arrested by immigration officers on February 15th at Egal International Airport in Hargeisa after his arrival from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. He was accused of campaigning against Somaliland’s sovereignty during a visit to Mogadishu and planning to spread his “ideology” upon his arrival in Somaliland.

At the time of Coldoon’s arrest, The National, an outlet that supports the Somaliland government called Coldoon a “controversial journalist” and ran several articles justifying his arrest.

More than a month later, Coldoon still has not been taken to court and remains in detention. But Mogadishu-based outlet Goobjoog News reported Monday that the Somaliland prosecutor plans to prosecute him on three charges including deliberate incitement and provocation.

The prosecutor also accused the journalist of participating in Somalia’s election which took place in February. Somaliland had declined to participate in the national elections; the region declared its independence in 1991 and considers itself independent. Coldoon allegedly favors a union of Somalia and Somaliland.

No date was given for the start of proceedings.

Somaliland’s Journalists’ Association last month condemned Coldoon saying that he deserves punishment. “We are calling on the government to protect the nation’s sovereignty and to prosecute Coldoon to the fullest extent of the law so that other journalists think twice before committing unlawful acts,” said Chairman Mohamed Abdi Jama.

But Coldoon’s supporters on social media criticized the arrest. “I support Coldoon. He is fighting for the unity of Somalia,” wrote Nasrudiin Abdirahman on Facebook. “He is arguing that we either remain within our nation of Somalia or that we will come under Ethiopian colony.”

Khadar Abid, another Facebook user, said that Coldoon had gone to Mogadishu “to celebrate and support the new president,” adding, “I don’t think he would have been arrested or questioned if he’s been to the United States of America to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory, there isn’t any difference to me.”

News of the planned charges elicited mixed reactions. In Mogadishu, journalist Abdulaziz Billow Ali expressed solidarity with his colleague Coldoon saying, “The allegations are baseless and uncalled for.”

But Robleh Mohamud, Chairman and CEO of The National, criticized Billow for disrespecting Somaliland’s judicial process saying that he too should be barred from entering Somaliland. “Insulting ‪Somaliland’s law enforcement & judiciary? Looks like Abdulaziz Billow Ali will be the next journo to be banned from Somaliland,” Robleh wrote on the social media site Twitter.

In the meantime, the International Somali Awards organization has awarded Coldoon a prize in absentia for “Outstanding Contribution to the Community.” The awards organization called the detained Coldoon “a groundbreaking journalist who highlights social and political issues often ignored by mainstream media, disrupting taboos and raising awareness.”