Kenyan journalist Collins Juma Osemo also known as Yassin Juma is now demanding an apology and compensation from the Ethiopian government over what he terms as a 49-day wrongful detention.
In an interview with Sunday Nation, a week after he arrived in Kenya, the former NTV journalist likened his 49-day incarceration in Ethiopia to a stay in “hell”.
Juma, who was arrested moments after the assassination of Oromia musician Hachalu Hundessa in July, says the experience in police custody haunts him to date.
He was accused of fueling violence following the assassination of the popular musician and activist.
The journalist has denied any wrongdoing and now wants the Ethiopian authorities to explain why he was detained for nearly two months on trumped-up charges.
He details that he was in the country doing his work as a journalist after being contracted by the British broadcaster Sky News to shoot a documentary under his Horn24 Media Company.
“I was there to do positive stories about Ethiopia when we were arrested as we covered opposition politician Jawar Mohamed’s rally. I was never officially charged throughout the 49 days that I was incarcerated. There were only proposed charges which did not stand in court eventually, ” he said.
Juma says he travelled to Ethiopia after a ban barring him from entering the country was lifted in August last year and returned to the country again in January this year to cover the Ethiopian Christmas, which is celebrated in January in line with its Orthodox practices.
The Ethiopian government had banned him from setting foot in the country after airing of his TV news report on the tensions between Kenya and Ethiopia.
For days he was not arraigned as police said that they were yet to complete investigations.
The police, Juma says, later claimed that his arrest was a result of a mistaken identity but did not release him either.
According to Juma he was categorised as a political detainee and was not allowed to speak to anyone from outside.
“I shared my cell with all the opposition political leaders who had been rounded up earlier. Most of them are still detained there,” he said.
“I never spoke with my family for all those days I was incarcerated and my lawyer only visited me twice.”
He reiterated that Kenyan officials were never there for him for days afte his arrest.
“The first time I saw a government official was 19 days after my arrest and I was asked if I needed a lawyer. I told them they were 19 days late,” he said.
Life in the cells, Juma says, was anything but easy adding that it contributed to him contracting Covid-19.
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The detainees slept on the floor, ate from the same floor. He says he survived largely on bread and water because he could not stomach the prison menu.
“I thought I was a tough fellow because I have been through a lot in Somalia, but detention also detains your mind,” he said.
After spending 35 days in the cells, Juma says that he was rearrested and assaulted shortly after being freed on bail at Arada Police Station.
After his re-arrest Juma was taken back to court, this time accused of being an international hacker.
After three days he was told that he was among 68 other detainees who had tested posive for Covid-19.
“When they took me to court, I insisted that we should be tested for Covid-19 because there was no running water, the toilet was dirty and we were using our dirty hands to eat communally, ” he noted.
The journalist was later moved to a government isolation facility where he was later declared Covid-19.
In the interview, Juma denied claims by the Kenyan embassy in Addis Ababa that he had opted to stay in Ethiopia with his friends after the Attorney General’s order that he be freed.
“I never said those words; all I wanted to do was come straight home,” he said.