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Ex-UN researcher Matt Bryden sentenced to five years in Somalia for ‘leaking state secrets’

Thursday October 28, 2021

MOGADISHU (HOL) - A former UN monitoring coordinator Matthew Bryden was sentenced to five years in absentia by a court in Mogadishu on Tuesday  for what the court called 'leaking state secrets.'

Banaadir Regional Court ruled that Bryden, 56, the founder and director of the policy thinktank Sahan Research was guilty of the alleged offence and handed him a five-year jail term. The court also banned Sahan Research from operating in Somalia. 

Bryden, alongside Colin Robinson, a military and defence analyst, Khayre Abdirahman Raage, Emmanuel Deiser and David Hopkins were all charged with 'leaking national security information and military secrets' in April.

The court did not, however, rule on the cases involving the other co-accused. The nature of the charges, however, remained unclear.

Bryden, who was once appointed Special Advisor to the Canadian Ambassador on Somali Affairs, had been declared persona non grata by the Federal Government in 2018, and his organization, Sahan Research, was banned from Somalia.

VOA Somali reported that Sahan Research Organisation had expressed 'regrets' following the judgement but said it would be appealing the case.
However, in a quick rejoinder moments after the ruling, the company issued a statement terming it untested and spurious espionage charges.

"Sahan categorically and comprehensively rejects the outcome of this farcical, politically motivated show trial, which serves only to underscore the integrity, quality and authenticity of our works," the statement read in part.

The statement also dismissed the argument that Sahan has been revealing secrets about the Somalia National Army.

According to Sahan, the prosecutor did not offer any discovery of evidence, and the court did not give the organization a chance to refute the charges.

"Moreover, since Somalia does not have an Official Secret Act, what constitutes classified material is undefined in law," the statement further read.

Bryden served as Coordinator for the then UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea between March 2008 and July 2012.

However, Somalia's federal government says that its Nairobi-based organization uses it to cause mayhem in Somalia and Eritrea.

Bryden's involvement in Africa began in 1987 when he visited the East African region after being handed leave by the Canadian Forces Reserve.

His first assignment in Africa was in 1988 when the Cooperative or Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE)  hired him for a program in January 1988 and in 1989 joined the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Berbera, Somalia.

The following year he was reassigned to Nairobi, Kenya, when the UN evacuated non-essential staff.


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