By Fakhriya M. Suleiman, MA Global Media and Postnational Communications
Following the night Mohamud Mohammed Hassan spent in South Wales Police (SWP) custody on 8 January, he was found dead at his home the next day. Hassan, a 24-year old Black man, was arrested for domestic disturbance but was released without charge.
According to Voice Wales, Hassan had told his friend how police ‘beat the s***’ out of him’. Voice Wales also cited a neighbour of Hassan who stated that Hassan’s clothing was ‘bloodstained’ upon his return.
While SWP described Hassan’s demise as ‘sudden and unexplained’, his family claim he was beaten during his brief incarceration. His aunt, Zainab Hassan, lamented that her nephew returned with ‘lots of wounds on his body and lots of bruises’’ that were not there prior to his arrest.
SWP, on the other hand, denies any wrongdoing, citing no evidence of ‘misconduct or excessive force’ used.
SWP also confirmed the incident had been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). As of 12 January, the IOPC corroborated SWP’s statement, concluding there being no ‘preliminary indication… [of] physical trauma injury… [but] toxicology tests are required’.
In the aftermath of Hassan’s death, protesters took to the streets demanding answers and justice for Hassan’s family. Protests in Cardiff began on 12 January with hundreds of people at Cardiff Bay Police Station rallying with chants of ‘no justice, no peace’ and picket signs reading ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘stop police brutality’.
Protests also erupted in the British capital. 17 January saw five people arrested at Parliament Square for breaching lockdown restrictions while protesting the death of the 24-year old.
Somalis across the diaspora also took to Twitter to voice their anger. On Twitter, @AfricanAstro tweeted how this tragic incident highlighted, once again, ‘the reality of how UK law enforcement [has] treated Somalis before’. In his tweet, @AfricanAstro mentioned ‘the ‘Mohamud’ of 1952’. That was in reference to Mahmoud Mattan, a 28-year old Somali sailor wrongfully executed for the murder of Lily Volpert in Cardiff.
Harold Cover, the key witness during Mattan’s trial, was later revealed to have been paid to give damning evidence against Mattan, leading to his subsequent hanging. It was not until 1998 that the Court of Appeal’s Lord Justice Rose declared Mattan’s case, and eventually sentencing, ‘demonstrably flawed’ and overturned his conviction. Mattan’s gravestone epitaph reads ‘killed by injustice’.
BAME Lawyers 4 Justice’s vice-chairman, Lee Jasper, has been vocal about Mohamud Mohammed Hassan’s recent death. On his personal blog he penned: ‘[Hassan’s] death marks a grim and tragically familiar start for 2021’. On Facebook, Jasper demanded SWP release the police body-cam and CCTV footage recorded at the time of Hassan’s arrest and during his detention. He wrote on 16 January that ‘if SWP have nothing to hide, there should be no problem releasing [the footage]’.
In a statement on 9 January, a police spokeswoman for SWP stated that they have provided all the relevant CCTV footage and body-worn video to the IOPC for them to undergo their investigation: ‘Therefore, the footage cannot be released by SWP while the IOPC is investigating’.
‘[We do not want him] to become another statistic.’
Hassan’s cousins, Manal Abdirahman and Ikram Hamud, set up a GoFundMe online fundraiser the day after his passing to ‘raise money for funeral arrangements and legal fees’. Abdirahman and Hamud stressed in their petition that they do not want ‘the eldest son [of their family] to become another statistic’. As of 19 January, donations from the public reached £50,000.
Liz Saville Roberts, a member of Wales’ Plaid Cymru, tabled a motion in Parliament on 12 January for the House to mourn Hassan’s death. Saville Roberts’ motion recognises the ‘legitimate concerns arising from evidence that people of black and minority ethnic [background] die at a disproportionately higher rate as a result of the use of force or restraint by police’. The motion goes on to call for ‘institutional change to end racial discrimination within the criminal justice system’. For Zainab Hassan, she and her family ‘will not rest for a second until [they] have justice’.
Photo caption: 24-year old Mohamud Hassan’s death sparked protests in Wales and England (Credit: Twitter/@Hashim_PJ).