MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – A court in Somalia’s capital began hearing espionage charges against renowned political analysts with Sahan, a research think-tank that focuses on regional conflicts, security and reconciliation, Caasimada Online reported on Saturday.
Among the well-known analysts, who are being tried in absentia are Rashid Abdi and Matt Bryden.
The court earlier summoned Rashid Abdi and Matt Bryden, and four of their colleagues to appear before Banadir regional court. A judge was earlier quoted by local media as saying the six had “spied and leaked” national security information to unnamed foreign entities.
The six defendants are Rashid Abdi, Matt Bryden, Robison Colin, Rahman Rage Khaire, Emmanuel Deisser and David Hopkins.
After hearing session began, lawyers rejected the charges as politically motivated but the court described the move as an obstruction of justice and said it will soon render a verdict.
One of the analysts charged with spying for foreign entities, Rashid Abdi, earlier said the court had been set up to intimidate, harass and silence critics of the outgoing president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.
“[I] wouldn’t mind defending myself in a decent and neutral court, not in a political court set up to intimidate, harass and silence critics. I have seen and outlasted many regimes. This one is not any different,” he said.
The political analyst said his work focuses on respect for human rights, peace, liberty and reconciliation, and “only those opposed to [the] above will see me and my colleagues as a national threat”.
Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists and political analysts to live. Dozens of journalists and activists have been either killed or arrested over the past four years since the outgoing president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo came to office.
Last year, Somalia’s national intelligence agency threatened it would take a legal action against VOA Somali journalist Harun Maruf and alleged that he was “having links that are threat to the country’s national security”.
Several months later, a journalist with local radio based in the capital was arrested and charged with working for the militant group Al-Shabaab after he had aired a program covering human rights abuses committed by security forces. He was later acquitted by a military court.
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