A court in the self-declared republic of Somaliland sentenced eight people to death on Monday for killing several aid workers between 2003 and 2004.
Two humanitarian workers, Richard Eyeington and his wife, Enid, were shot dead in October 2003 at their home in a school compound in Sheik town, some 250 km from the Somaliland capital, Hargeysa.
The two had been working for SOS Children's Villages in Somaliland for a year to reopen a school for 100 children, which had been closed down in the 1970s during the regime of Muhammad Siyad Barre.
The killings occurred just two weeks after the murder of an Italian hospital director, Annalena Tonelli, in Borama town, 10 km from Hargeysa. Her murderers have never been found.
Three suspects, Mohamed Ali, Ahmed Samatar and Ibrahim Ali, were accused of killing the Eyeingtons.
Another five suspects, Jamaa Abdi, Ali Muse, Daud Salah, Ali Muhamed and Farhan Abdilahi, were accused of killing Florence Chepkemei, a Kenyan employee of the German aid agency GTZ, and another colleague in March 2004.
The two aid workers died in an ambush on the busy Hargeysa-Berbera road.
Judge Abdirahman Jamaa Hayan, who read the sentences, also ordered a fresh investigation into the killing of Tonelli.
He sentenced seven other suspects who were accused of abetting the killers to life imprisonment.
Some of the seven also were convicted of robbing Somaliland businessmen in the boarder town of Togwocahlle of undisclosed amounts of money, which was used to finance the murder of the British couple.
After the judge handed down the sentences and declared that it was against Islamic law to commit murder, some of the convicts quoted verses of the holy Qu’ran. "We should not be killed for killing infidels," they protested.
But Hayan was quick to dismiss their protest: "The religion is very clear. It does not approve or encourage the killings of innocent Muslims and non-Muslims," he said.
A former British protectorate, Somaliland unilaterally seceded from Somalia when the administration of former ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre Barre collapsed in 1991. The breakaway republic is not recognised by the international community.
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