Couple with new-born baby among five Christians arrested in Somaliland

15 February 2021

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Prosecutors in Muslim-majority Somaliland were granted extra time on 10 February to detain in custody a Christian couple and their new-born baby and two other Christian women on suspicion of “spreading Christianity”.

The time extension allows prosecutors up to 45 days from the date of the arrests in January to complete their investigation and file charges.

Somaliland’s small Christian community is feeling “very vulnerable” following the arrests of five Christians by police in the capital Hargeisa

On 21 January, police from the capital Hargeisa arrested and detained in custody Mohamed and Hamdi with their baby, as well as Aster, an Ethiopian woman.

The following day, police searched the couple’s home, seizing material belonging to them and also arrested another woman who was living with them.

Their lawyer said that on his initial visit they all appeared in good health and were being well treated. However, he has since been denied access, despite his verbal complaint and subsequent assurances from the public prosecutor’s office.

Prayers are requested for the detained Christians and for the small Christian community in Somaliland, who are feeling “very vulnerable” following the latest arrests.

Many believers are reported to have fled abroad after the arrest in September 2020 of a Christian couple detained for being “apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity”. The couple, who have three children, were unexpectedly released and deported two months later after European government representatives raised the case with the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Islam is the official religion of Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Its constitution states that individuals have the right to freedom of belief. However, the constitution also prohibits Muslims from converting to another religion, bars the propagation of any religion other than Islam and stipulates all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia (Islamic law).

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