SOMALILAND: Poet Accused of Insulting Government ‘Must be Freed’
Amnesty International is demanding the immediate release of a Somali poet who has been detained in the republic of Somaliland.
Abdirahman Abees recited poems critical of the government at a hotel in Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa.
Amnesty says authorities should focus on investigating the mistreatments Mr Abees describes in his poems instead of “harassing” critics. The government has not responded to requests for comments. If found guilty, Mr Abees could face three years in prison.
The poet, who is a British citizen, was arrested on 12 January and has been in detention since then. The day before his arrest, he recited a poem in which he described the human rights abuses he had witnessed at a police station in Hargeisa.
‘Raising important issues’
Mr Abees’ lawyer told the BBC that the poem called on the Somaliland government to reform its prisons and criminal justice systems and was not defamatory.
“He did not insult anybody,” Guled Ahmed Jamac said. The themes that his client was raising “are important issues which concern us all”, he added.
Mr Abees’ poetry often discusses issues such as police brutality, arbitrary detention and the treatment of prisoners.
Somaliland declared itself independent in 1991, but it is not recognised internationally.
Last year, a poet was jailed in the country for reciting a poem calling for the reunification of Somalia.
Nacima Qorane was found guilty of bringing the state into contempt with a poem which called for unity. She was sentenced to three years in prison but later received a presidential pardon.
A number of other artists and journalists have been arrested in Somaliland for the same offence in recent years.