, HARGEYSA, Jan 13 – A court in the northern Somali state of Somaliland on Thursday sentenced a German national to four years in prison for making pornographic films with local women.
Gunter Bischoss, 72, has lived in the semi-autonomous region since 1993 and is married to a woman from Somaliland. He was arrested last year on charges of making home sex videos with several women.
"This man was found guilty of committing crimes against religious ethics and morality by shooting pornographic movies and pictures with women from Somaliland," Judge Abdirashid Mohamed Mohamoud said.
"This court therefore sentences him to four years in prison and a fine of 10,000 US dollars," he said. "After serving his prison term, he will be deported from Somaliland and never allowed back again."
The verdict was delivered at a regional court in Mandhera prison, a desert fortress outside of the Somaliland capital Hargeysa where the British forces used to hold Italian prisoners of war during World War II.
A previous hearing in Hargeysa had attracted demonstrators and the suspect was transferred for security reasons.
"The evidence in this case has been exaggerated and I will appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court," Bischoss told reporters.
A 32-year-old woman from Somaliland who was among several women featuring in the home movies found on Bischoss\’ laptop was also sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of around 900 dollars.
The public has reacted to the case with outrage, notably by expressing concern that it was attracting the attention of the Shebab, an insurgent group which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
While the Shebab only control central and southern Somalia, some of the rebel movement\’s top leaders come from Somaliland, whose Western-backed government has been wary of an Islamist drive.
Some Shebab leaders in Mogadishu have in recent weeks accused Somaliland of dragging its feet in the case against Bischoss and urged local residents to storm the prison and kill the suspect.