A military court in Somalia’s federal state of Puntland on Sunday handed down heavy sentences to four men found guilty of killing a senior journalist in March last year.
The court in Galkayo ruled that Adde Abdullahi Mohammed Hassan and Abdiqani Saleban Jama, aka Sayloor, be sent to the gallows, saying a death sentence will be adequate for their heinous crime.
Two other men, Hassan Adan Jama and Mohamed Ali Ahmed, found to have played a role in the murder of freelance journalist Jamal Farah Adan, will serve jail terms of 25 years and 15 years respectively. Six other suspects were freed after the presiding judge said there was no sufficient evidence against them.
In Somalia, Al-Shabaab suspects are routinely tried in military courts. But this punishment was likely to please enthusiasts of press freedom in the country.
“We welcome the convictions as a positive step in the search for justice for Jamal Farah Adan and a strong signal against the rampant impunity and crimes committed against journalists in Somalia” said National Union of Somali Journalists (Nusoj) secretary-general Omar Faruk Osman.
Nusoj said Galkayo is among Somalia’s most dangerous places to be a journalist after Mogadishu as several journalists were murdered “with absolute impunity”.
“However, as a union that advocates for human dignity, Nusoj takes exception to the death penalty handed to two of the convicts. We categorically oppose the death penalty or capital punishment, which we view as inhuman and cruel. We hope the death penalties can be commuted to custodial punishment on appeal,” Osman said.
Mr Adan, 56, was gunned down on March 1, 2021 in Galkayo, a region that straddles Puntland and Galmudug states. Initial reports said he was targeted as he sat on the porch in Mudug in the evening. His death was linked to his radio reports on militant group Al-Shabaab’s crimes.
The suspects were arrested five days after the murder. The court said those found guilty were sentenced on their own plea of guilt. The four convicts also reportedly confessed to their membership of and allegiance to Al-Shabaab.
The penalty closed a chapter in one of Somalia’s much-discussed incidents of attacks on press freedom. But it wasn’t the only one.
A report released last week by Nusoj suggested there were as many as 63 incidents of intimidation and physical harm on journalists, making Somalia one of the most dangerous places in Africa to work as a journalist.
Two journalists were murdered and 34 arrested and detained without charge, and four private media houses were targeted for closure for reporting subjects that didn’t please the authorities, according to the report, Trail of Violence: Somali Journalists Bear the Brunt of Impunity.
The convicts have the option of appealing their sentences.