Despite serving his entire prison sentence for conspiring to commit terrorism in Somaliland, Ahmed Ibrahim, a 31 year old man from Hargeisa, is still being held behind bars by the Somaliland authorities.
Ahmed who is better known for his nickname “Darmaan” was working as a logistics officer for the Hargeisa-based Somali language Saxafi newspaper when he was arrested in February 2013 to face terrorism charges along with 5 others who were accused of acting as accomplices to the offense.
After spending about a year in detention, Darmaan was sentenced by the Hargeisa Regional Court judge Faisal Ismail Dhago Dhago to a 5-year term which was later reduced to 3 years by the Court of Appeals.
Interestingly the 5 other suspects in the case were security agents working for the Somaliland Intelligence Organization (SIO). They were accused of either abetting or failing to report Darmaan’s plans to commit terrorism in the country. None of the security agents were found guilty, and none over the 10 witnesses marshaled by the prosecution during the trail had testified against Darmaan.
Meanwhile all the 5 security agents returned back to their jobs with the SIO.
Darmaan was due for release on May 17, 2015. But he is still being held in custody and his mother Mako and elder brother Abdifatah have been unable to know from the security authorities why they are keeping him in Hargeisa Central Prison despite the expiry of his custodial sentence.
Public prosecutor Hassan Ali, Police Commissioner Abdilahi Fadal, SIO Director Jam Botan and officials of the custodial corpses have all tended to avoid telling what is exactly stopping Darmaan from being freed.
“I met all the heads of these departments but not a single of them would tell you the precise reason for Darmaan’s lengthened imprisonment,” said Abdifatah.
Darmaan’s lawyer Mohamed Suleiman who has been frustrated by the evasive nature of the government’s behavior towards the issue had described his client’s continued incarceration without charges despite the expiry of his prison sentence as an insult to justice.
“This action or inaction not only flies in the face of the basic principles of justice but also alienates the victim’s family and community,” lawyer Suleiman asserted.
While trying to find out who was exactly responsible for Darmaan’s confinement, his relatives came across at least one security official who gave them a hint that there were instructions from a foreign security interest to have his detention extended indefinitely.
After Abdifatah confronted Police Commissioner Fadal with this information the latter neither denied nor confirmed the speculated involvement of foreign intelligence agents in Darmaan’s extended detention.
“Although he alluded at one point to the British security personnel who work with Somaliland intelligence as the people behind my brother’s confinement, he was however mostly ambiguous in his responses,” Abdifatah pointed out.
Darmaan’s relatives believe that the terrorism charges brought against him were fabricated by the security apparatus. Darmaan’s elder brother Mohamed Laba-Guma was implicated in a failed terror plot in 2005.
After spending about three years in jail he was pardoned along with 3 other prisoners also serving terrorism sentences by former president Dahir Riyale Kahin. There was no official explanation for the clemency granted to the 3 convicts, but it was later revealed that one of them by the name of Ahmed-Keyse had actually worked as a spy for the American intelligence. President Riyale was said to have come under intense U.S pressure to have Ahmed Keyse released.
After he was set free, Ahmed Keyse travelled to Mogadishu only to be caught and executed by Al Shabab. Darmaan’s brother Laba-Guma also travelled to Mogadishu where he was killed while fighting for Al Shabab in 2009.
Darmaan’s relatives cite his late brother’s background as the most likely motive why the terrorism charges were brought up against him in the first place.
“He has been an easy target for false implications and when the case collapsed due to lack of evidence, the security apparatus and the prosecution had simply negotiated with the court to issue a verdict incriminating Darmaan” Abdifatah said.
But according to Darmaan’s mother Mako there has been a tribal element involved in the case as well.
“There is no doubt about the innocence of the other 5 suspects who were found not guilty. But the only reason that they were immediately released after the ruling had been that 4 of them belonged to the clan of SIO’s Director while the remaining fifth happened to be from the clan of Police Commissioner Fadal” Mako said.
Somaliland’s spy agency is trained by the British intelligence. The UK government also funds and trains through a private company Somaliland’s Rapid Response Unit (RRU). This special police force was formed about 5 years ago, originally as counter-terror unit. But in recent years the RRU has increasingly been used by Somaliland president Silanyo to crack-down on public protests and to close down independent media outlets that deem to be critical of the government.