A Somali traditional elder who has spent two months in detention for calling on Somaliland and Puntland to withdraw their troops from a disputed region has been pardoned by President Muse Bihi Abdi.
Boqor Osman Aw-Mohamud, also known as “Buur Madow”, was charged with bringing Somaliland into contempt during “proceedings that lasted less than an hour” in April, according to campaign group Human Rights Watch.
His relatives told the media in Somaliland that the elder was released on the orders of the president.
On 15 June, President Abdi announced the release of hundreds of prisoners from Somaliland’s jails to mark Eid al-Fitr, a common practice in Muslim-majority countries.
A Somaliland court had sentenced the traditional clan elder to five years in prison but later reduced the sentence to three years following his appeal.
Buur Madow was arrested in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, on 19 April a day after attending an elder’s inauguration event in the town of Armo in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland.
Somaliland police had said Buur Madow committed “crimes against the state” by urging troops to leave disputed areas in Sool region.
Somaliland and Puntland forces have in the past clashed over the disputed Sool region.
Last month, Somaliland’s president also pardoned a young female poet jailed in April for advocating for the self-declared republic to reunite with the rest of Somalia.
Nacima Qorane recited poetry calling for Somaliland to reunite with the rest of Somalia, according to prosecutors.
Ms Qorane lived in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, for some time and supports the reunification between Somalia and Somaliland.
She took part in the 2017 edition of TedXMogadishu.
Human Rights Watch has accused Somaliland’s government of using “vague and overly broad provisions…to criminalize disagreements with key state policies, as well as criticism of, or perceived insults to, public officials”.
It called on Somaliland’s legislature to “repeal all laws that criminalize the free expression of political opinions, including criticism of state authorities or national symbols”.
Somaliland declared its independence from the rest of Somalia 27 years ago but is yet to gain international recognition.