Somalia: Poet found not guilty, released from custody

27 February 2019
Poet Abdirahman Abees has been arrested in Somaliland over his poetry readings about "police brutality", "arbitrary detentions" and "poor leadership".
Abdirahman Abee / Human Rights Centre Somaliland


27 February, 2019

UPDATE: Poet found not guilty, released from custody

On 25 February 2019, a Hargeisa regional court in Somaliland found poet Abdirahman Abees not guilty of insulting the police and the government, local media Horn Diplomat reported. The court said the poet exercised his freedom of expression, and ordered his immediate release.

According to Freemuse sources, Abees was released on 25 February after spending six weeks in detention.


20 February, 2019

Poet charged with ‘insulting the police and the government’

More than a month after he was arrested and detained, British-Somalilander poet Abdirahman Abees has been formally charged under Article 269 of the Somaliland penal code for “insulting the police and the government”, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

An initial hearing date has been set for 21 February 2019.


14 January 2019

Poet arrested after poetry reading

The government of Somaliland arrested British-Somalilander poet Abdirahman Abees on 12 January 2019, the day after he recited poems about “police brutality”, “arbitrary detentions” and “poor leadership” at a poetry reading event in Hargeisa, according to Human Rights Centre (HRC) Somaliland.

According to Freemuse sources, Abees organised the poetry evening on 11 January with the theme Try and imagine the future of Somaliland and its police force. When introducing several poems, he spoke about the sociopolitics of Somaliland and made suggestions for improvement.

The next day, Abees was reportedly arrested at a restaurant in Hargeisa—the capital of the self-declared state of Somaliland—despite police not having a court-issued warrant for his arrest.  

“Article 25(2) of the Constitution of Somaliland states that no person can be arrested or detained, except when caught in the act of committing a crime or, on the issue of a reasoned arrest warrant by a competent judge,” HRC reported.

The Constitution also states everyone has the freedom “to express his opinions orally, visually, artistically or in writing or in any other way”.

The poet is being held in the detention facility of the Counterterrorism Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department in Hargeisa, according to HRC.

His family told HRC they have not been allowed to see him.

Video: Abdirahman Abees at the poetry event in Hargeisa on 11 January 2019. 

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