Thursday May 18, 2023
The EU-funded Maritime Police Unit in Mogadishu.
The Somali government has expelled two European Union employees accused of illegally taking photos of prisoners at a detention center.
In a brief statement broadcast by Somali National Television, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it made the decision after receiving a request from Somali Attorney General Sulayman Mohamed Mohamud to remove the two from the country.
The ministry identified the workers as Jacek Jozef Ochman of Poland and Ralf Bernhard Gehlig of Germany and accused them of “violating the laws and rules of the country.”
The Somali government asked the EU to remove the men from Somalia within 72 hours. VOA Somali has learned that they left the country on Tuesday.
The two were working for the European Union Capability Building Mission in Somalia (EUCAP Somalia).
Multiple sources confirmed to VOA that the expulsions are related to the detention of Iranian boats and 36 fishermen accused of illegal fishing in Somali waters. Most of the fishermen are Iranians, according to the sources.
VOA Somali obtained a letter sent by Mohamud to Minister of Foreign Affairs Abshir Omar Jama. In it, Mohamud said Ochman and Gehlig visited the prisoners on April 30 at a detention center belonging to the Somali maritime police at Mogadishu’s airport and “secretly” took pictures of them.
“A crime has been committed by taking secret photos of prisoners at a security installation to tarnish the reputation and dignity of the nation,” the letter said.
The letter also said the action to take the photos secretly violated the Somali penal code.
It said Ochman led the EU team that visited the installation and ordered the pictures, and that Gehlig took them.
The attorney general said he asked the Foreign Ministry to remove the men from Somalia because they have immunity and cannot be criminally prosecuted.
VOA Somali contacted the EU mission in Somalia and the attorney general for comment but has not received a response.
In March, the Somali Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources issued a press release stating that foreign vessels had been fishing illegally in Somalia’s exclusive economic zone since January 2023.
The ministry did not identify which countries the vessels belonged to, but said they did not have access agreements and licenses from the Somali government.
The ministry said illegal fishing constitutes a “significant threat” to Somalia’s fishing stock, food security and marine ecology. It urged all foreign vessels fishing illegally to leave Somalia’s waters.