For several days, some circles with links to the opposition have been spreading untruthful accusations and baseless rumours about the incarceration of Fouad Youssouf Ali at the Gabode Civil Prison. The Republic of Djibouti formally contests these "versions" circulating in certain media, including foreign publications.
The Republic of Djibouti wishes to recall the facts, all the more serious in that they regard an officer in Djibouti’s Armed Forces, that led to the opening of a judicial inquiry against Mr. Ali. These acts were committed in flagrante delicto, as is moreover proved by a video that the defendant recorded and broadcast himself.
On 9 April, the State Prosecutor requested the opening of a judicial inquiry against Mr. Ali, accusing him, in Djibouti, in March 2020, of:
- Attempting to steal a military aircraft
- Destroying that aircraft
- Maintaining relations with a foreign power, namely, Eritrea
- Publishing violent statements in the press inciting hatred and a public uprising for the purpose of severely disrupting public order
- Jeopardising national defence by urging the military to commit acts of disobedience
- Publicly defaming Djibouti’s Armed Forces.
These are extremely serious acts that undermine national security and would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by any State in the world.
There are no military courts in Djibouti. Mr. Ali will have to answer for his actions before a civilian court, like any other Djiboutian citizen. His rights of defence have been upheld, as he was free to remain silent during his first interrogation on 22 April while awaiting the assistance of a lawyer of his choice. On 23 April, his wife was granted a permit to communicate with him.
It should also be noted that, at the time, all visits to detainees were suspended due to strict Covid-19 containment and prevention measures. On 7 June, a communication permit was issued to the defendant’s wife and sister, a parliamentarian and a member of civil society who visited him at Gabode Civil Prison. Lastly, the National Human Rights Commission visited the prison on 9 June to check up on the detention conditions not only of Mr. Ali, but also of all other detainees.
Mr. Ali illegally made a video inside his cell that does not reflect the actual conditions of his detention and was obviously staged. In fact, the accused has a private cell located in a block containing other, perfectly identical cells, with access to a common courtyard where he is allowed, like all the other prisoners, to take a walk twice daily. Moreover, he has private sanitary facilities as well as facilities for the proper ventilation of the space allotted to him. Gabode is the only prison in the country and Mr. Ali does not suffer any abuse and has not been placed under any special regime. These circumstances are immediately and objectively verifiable.
As to the seriousness of Mr. Ali's state of health, this claim is based only on his own statements. At no time did the medical facility at Gabode Central Prison report the need to hospitalise him, but the court nevertheless ordered a panel of sworn experts to examine him. It should also be noted that it has been established that Mr. Ali was suffering from a skin disease before his arrest, as confirmed by his attending physician. A medical evaluation is currently under way and the results will be available in the coming days.
Those who present themselves as Mr. Ali’s supporters have put forward the most outlandish theories with the sole aim of inciting unrest in Djibouti. In this context, three unauthorized demonstrations in Djibouti City, Ali Sabieh and the Balbala quarter on 5 June resulted in unacceptable disorder by violent elements. The law enforcement agencies intervened in this particularly difficult context.
Several people were arrested, including several falsely claiming to be journalists. These supposed “journalists” have since been released.
In Ali Sabieh, demonstrators set a bank on fire and shot one of its employees during an attempted robbery. The police on the scene used only tear gas and rubber bullets to restore order. An investigation by the State Prosecutor's Office is under way to fully shed light on these events.
Clearly, as the defendant himself points out, this is a case of political manipulation linked to opposition circles with little regard for the proper functioning of democracy and whose ultimate goal is to undermine Djibouti's unity and national cohesion.
In the particularly trying times of the Covid-19 epidemic, the government calls for the rejection of violence and respect for the rules of democracy. The Government of the Republic of Djibouti will fulfill its responsibility to protect property and persons and take action against those who seek to exploit an affair that is a matter for the courts and to undermine national security.
Of course, since Mr. Ali’s arrest he has benefitted from the presumption of innocence. Only a court of law can decide otherwise. Justice must be allowed to calmly follow its course without outside disturbance.