Friday, January 14, 2011

Somaliland: An alleged sexual deviant gets his day in court

By Bashir Goth

A court in Somaliland has found a German man guilty of making pornographic films of Somali women and has given him a four- year prison sentence and US$10,000 fine. This news story may raise some eyebrows or even evoke disdain from people who would dismiss the case as another botched trial from another infidel-obsessed Islamic country.

But wait a minute! Mr. Gunter Bischoss, 72, who lived in the region since 1993 and is married to a local woman, is indeed a lucky man because in some other parts of Somalia ruled by the rogue Al Shabab forces, Mr. Bischoss would not have had his day in court. There people are beheaded, limbs amputated and mothers and adolescent girls flogged and executed in public on decisions made in extrajudicial bogus trials presided by fanatically ignorant young thugs. There one doesn’t have to commit a crime to be subjected to such brutal treatment. Women are pulled out of public transport and flogged in public for wearing bras or not dressed in Al-Shabab ordained Islamic black robes; girls are stoned to death for talking to their male neighbors, radio broadcasters are slaughtered for playing Somali music on their radio stations; and even religious worshippers are killed for blasphemy simply because they don’t adhere to the Al-Shabab endorsed narrow interpretation of Islam. So if Al Shabab treats Somali people who are mostly practicing Muslims in this manner, it is anyone’s guess what fate would have been waiting for a foreigner like Mr. Bischoss.

But not in Somaliland! A territory of the Somali peninsula where the rule of law works, where an elected and stable government has prevailed for many years, where people look up to the courts for delivering justice, where the foreigner has even more rights than that of a citizen, and where Mr. Bischoss had his day in court.

In delivering the sentence decision, Judge Abdirashid Mohamed Mohamoud was quoted to have said that Mr. Bischoss was found guilty of committing crimes against religious ethics and morality by shooting pornographic movies and pictures with women from Somaliland. He pronounced his judgment like he would in any other criminal case committed by any local person. There was no commotion, no religious chanting, no xenophobia and no firebrand mullahs inciting people to take to the streets with anti-Western slogans or demanding death for Mr. Bischoss and his local accomplice, a woman who allegedly appeared in his pornography videos. She was also given one year prison sentence and some fine. No flogging, no stoning and no amputation. The prisoners’ full rights and full dignities were upheld during the trial. This was not lost on Mr. Bischoss himself who shouted to the reporters from the dock after hearing the judgment that: "The evidence in this case has been exaggerated and I will appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court."

Living almost 17 years in the country and being married to a local woman, Mr. Bischoss knew that he was in good hands; that Somaliland is not Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other part of other mob-ruled countries. He knew that he had the right for an appeal and that he may even have the chance that the decision may be reversed by the same court or by the upper court if new facts come to light.

If anything, the words of Mr. Bischoss bring home the truth that the international community chooses to ignore; that Somaliland is a decent country, with decent laws and decent people that is struggling to live within the norms and values of the international community. A country that is crying to be heard and given the respect and the recognition it deserves for its accomplishments; a country that is astonishingly watching how the world flocks to Southern Sudan while its yearning for having its place among the civilized world is ignored.