Somalia slaps a would-be suicide bomber with life imprisonment
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A military court in Mogadishu on Tuesday slapped a would-be suicide bomber with a life sentence, following a trial that lasted for almost 12 months, in yet another incident that showcases the ability of military courts in prosecuting criminal cases.
With little or no functional court systems, Somalia has been relying on court-martials, which are used to administer justice to suspected Al-Shabaab militants, who have wreaked havoc in the Horn of Africa nation for the last decade, despite concerted effort to dismantle them.
Said Biriq Mohamud will now spend the rest of his life behind bars and does not have an option of appealing the sentence, after failing to convince the judge against a host of allegations labeled against him by military prosecutors.
Evidence tabled by the prosecution team linked him to a botched suicide bombing in Mogadishu in June 2019, which led to his arrest by security officers manning the busy city and has been under detention since them but was given an opportunity to defend himself.
Prosecutors said the Al-Shabaab operative tried to detonate a VBIED but was shot and injured by security forces in Mogadishu. The attack would have been devastating and could have led to many unprecedented deaths, the prosecution team argued.
Col. Hassan Nor, the tough military judge, said the suspect failed to express "remorse" throughout the trial an indication that he "executed" the act without minding the "outcome" had he managed to execute his plans.
The judge added: "Our work is to look at the available evidence and give justice to all parties. The victim has failed to express remorse and the court will not be lenient at all. He will now have to serve a life sentence in compliance with the number of mistakes he committed."
"The judgment is not subject to appeal and it will commence right away. We shall continue to protect the public from such individuals who never think about the lives of others and the ultimate punishment is to have them locked behind the bars," he added.
Military courts are popular in Somalia and have helped the country successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases in record time. However, they have in the past faced criticism from a section of human rights groups who believe that victims are not given the opportunity to defend themselves in compliance with constitutional provisions.
Somalia does not have a formidable justice system that can be relied on for prosecutions of most criminal and civil cases. But the court-martials are trusted by the citizens on matters to do with Al-Shabaab-related cases, which are regular in the war-torn nation.
The militants have often used IEDs and VBIEDs to attack their targets in the country and across the borders. The most recent case involves an attempt against army chief General Yusuf Rageh Odawaa, who narrowly survived at attack a VBIED targeted his convoy.
Although the militants can still wage small to large scale sporadic attacks, they have been substantially weakened due to persistent operations waged by Somali National Army [SNA] and those from the African Union. There are close to 7,000 active Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia.