Separatist Somaliland seizes air cargo, jails air crew
|January 5, 2011||Posted by Ocean Shipping Communication China under Air News||
AUTHORITIES in the unruly, unrecognised Somaliland separatist state have fined a cargo plane, confiscated its cargo and sentenced its crew to jail.
Garowe is the capital city of the neighbouring administrative region of Puntland, and is the seat of the regional parliament, presidential palace and government ministries.
The plane’s six crew members, reportedly Russian, were charged with delivering weapons to an enemy, ruled a court in Somaliland capital of Hargeisa.
Abdirahman Jama Hayan, the judge at Hargeisa Regional Court, sentenced the six crew to one-year jail terms. Court documents state that the crew members can buy off their sentence instead of serving the full one-year term.
Judge Hayan also fined the six crew members US$500 each, while fining the airplane $4,000.
The six crew members had a defence attorney named Khadar Mohamed Guled, but it’s not clear that the defence attorney could fairly defend his clients in the highly-charged political atmosphere.
A small cargo plane made an emergency landing to refuel at Hargeisa’s Egal International Airport and Somaliland police seized the plane and its eight passengers, but later released two South African journalists.
Since December 10, Somaliland authorities have spoken publicly a number of times claiming that the airplane was delivering weapons to Puntland, a self-governing state to the west that supports the establishment of a federal Somalia.
Officials in Hargeisa have claimed that Puntland is violating the 1992 UN arms embargo on Somalia, but Somaliland authorities have failed to produce any evidence that weapons were found. The plane’s manifest states that uniforms, boots, video cameras, T-shirts, mosquito sprays and rat traps were aboard.
Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo appointed a committee of five cabinet ministers to oversee the case, but sources in Hargeisa tell Garowe Online that the committee members “disagreed” about Somaliland’s response, with “hardliners” gaining the upper hand.
South Africa’s Cape Times reported that the coordinator of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, Matt Bryden, went to Somaliland at the authority’s request to interview the plane’s passengers.
But the UN Monitoring Group has not issued any report of Mr. Bryden’s visit to Somaliland or any violation of the Somalia arms embargo with regard to the seized plane. The Hargeisa Regional Court ruled that the Somaliland government could confiscated all materials for government use, which contradicts accusations that the materials were a violation of UN arms embargo.