Journalist Detained in Somalia Represented by Michael Polak Freed

Michael Polak
Michael Polak March 25, 2021

The client of Church Court Chambers’ Michael Polak, journalist Kilwe Farah, was released on Monday 22 March 2021. Michael was instructed in this matter by the family of Mr Farah and was working alongside the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and local lawyer Avv. Mustafe Mohamed Jama.

A day after Kilwe reported on anti-inflation rate protests in Garowe on 27 January 2020, Kilwe was unlawfully detained from a hotel in Garowe town centre. He was then held at an undisclosed PISA (security services) detention centre without access to a lawyer or his family for 16 days where he was subjected to torture. On 11 January 2021, after 16 days held incommunicado in unlawful detention Kilwe was transferred to Garowe Central Prison where he was charged with attempted murder despite the authorities never having identified anyone who he was supposed to have attempted to murder.

These charges then changed. During the court hearing on Saturday 27 February 2021, before the first instance Military Court the military prosecutor put forward five charges: Instigation of Delinquency; Instigation to Disobey Laws; Publication or Circulation of False, Exaggerated, or Tendentious News Capable of Disturbing Public Order; Offence against the Authorities by means of Damaging Posters; and Bringing the Nation or the State into Contempt.  Mr Farah was then sentence to three months imprisonment, despite there being no evidence against him, which should have resulted in him being freed immediately to return to his family. However  subsequently, the Military Prosecutor appealed against the sentence and in a farcical hearing within Mr Farah’s gaol cell the appeal was allowed and Mr Farah was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.

After extensive advocacy, in the African media, at the United Nation’s level with submissions to the Working Group and Special Rapporteurs, with Somalia’s international partners, and to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Mr Farah was freed under presidential pardon on Monday.  

Mr Farah stated “I am glad to be freed today. I am doing well and back to my family. I thank SJS and its lawyers Avv. Mustafe Mohamed Jama and barrister Michael Polak for their long efforts to my freedom,” shortly after his release from the Garowe Central Prison.

Michael Polak stated ‘It is fantastic that Kilwe is now free and back with his family. However, it should be remembered that he was seized because of his media work, kept incommunicado in an illegal secret detention centre, then subject to proceedings which were farcical including an appeal which was heard in his prison cell without a lawyer.  Kilwe should not have spent the last three months away from his family in a precarious position and the international community must do more to protect media freedom throughout Somalia.”

The case was covered in the media here:

Michael Polak is available for a range of international law and human rights matters including representation and assistance for journalists and media organisations. Michael can be instructed by contact Church Court’s clerking team on by email or phone +44 020 7936 3637

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