Mississauga dad wants help to free his Canadian-born sons, sent to visit their grandmother, from an African prison.
/ FAMILY PHOTO
Jamal Noor, 15, has been in a Somaliland prison ever since police stormed his grandmother's home on July 24.
By: Gemma Karstens-Smith Staff Reporter, Published on Fri Sep 20 2013
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Two Mississauga teens have been jailed in Africa for more than a month, their father says, since taking a summer trip to visit their grandmother.
Mohamed Noor sent sons Liiban, 18, and Jamal, 15, to Somaliland in June. The Canadian-born brothers had never been to the tiny East African territory, an autonomous region within the borders of Somalia that considers itself independent.
The vacation was interrupted on July 24, Noor says, when police officers stormed into their grandmother’s home.
“They came to the house with special forces. They terrorized the house,” Noor alleges. He says the boys were accused of raping a young woman, the cousin of a politician.
A week later, Liiban and Jamal were sentenced to 10 years in prison, Noor says.
Their father alleges there was no investigation of the allegations, and no trial, and that the brothers weren’t even able to speak with a lawyer.
He says the boys didn’t know the girl involved. They say they didn’t know any young people in the area, in part because they don’t speak the local language.
Canada’s foreign affairs department is “aware of the arrest and detention of two Canadian citizens in the territory of Somaliland,” a spokesperson for the department said in an email. The Canadian Embassy in Nairobi is providing consular services to the family.
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The department declined to release any other details on the case, citing the privacy of the individuals concerned.
Calls and emails by the Star to several agencies and politicians in Somaliland were not immediately returned.
Noor alleges the teens were hauled off to the police station for a forceful interrogation.
“(The police) beat them up so bad. They tortured them. They told them, ‘You have to admit it,’ to something they didn’t do.”
Noor left his Mississauga home for Somaliland as soon as he could, his wife and three younger children in tow. He’s bent on getting his boys out of jail, but says the fight has been frustrating and costly.
“I tried to do something, but nobody can give me any details,” said Noor, who moved to Canada from Somalia more than 25 years ago.
Noor says he is allowed to visit his sons for five minutes once a week, on Mondays. They’re housed in overcrowded cells with inmates more than twice their age.
He says he sees bruises and wounds on their bodies, and hears them talk of being hit and threatened.
“They keep asking, ‘What happened, why are we here?’” Noor said. “They cannot understand.”
While Liiban speaks a bit of broken Somali, Jamal can’t communicate at all in the native language of his captors.
“It’s very difficult. It’s very, very difficult,” their father said. “I don’t even sleep. I can’t. I have nightmares. I cannot sleep with my kids sitting in there.”
Noor has done everything he can think of to win the boys’ freedom. He says he calls Canadian consular officials dialing seeking updates on his sons’ case. But there’s been little progress, and he feels Canadian officials could do more to help his boys.
“It’s very slow,” he said. “I feel helpless now.”
Somaliland officials have been of little help. Setting up meetings with officials takes weeks, Noor said, alleging that some demand bribes before handing over any information.
“They think we have a lot of money or something because we are from Canada,” said Noor, who works as a truck driver in Mississauga.
Noor’s life is now consumed with trying to free his sons. All of his children should now be back in their Mississauga schools, and Noor back to work. But the distraught father feels stuck in Somaliland, unwilling to leave without Liiban and Jamal.
“We cannot leave our kids here,” he said. “We don’t want to leave them behind.”